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Special night when Aberdeen earned their second star

IT was 30 years ago tonight that Aberdeen delivered the result they later converted into a star on their shirts.

Gordon Strachan, left, and Willie Miller, centre, celebrate winning the UEFA Super Cup with Aberdeen, the only Scottish side to have done so. Picture: Newsquest
Gordon Strachan, left, and Willie Miller, centre, celebrate winning the UEFA Super Cup with Aberdeen, the only Scottish side to have done so. Picture: Newsquest

On the face of it, all that connects the Aberdeen of 1983 with the club of today is the fact the weather will be grim around Pittodrie tonight, just as it was 30 years ago. The stadium will be empty this time, though.

Three decades ago it was packed and euphoric, lapping up the sights and sounds as Aberdeen won the second European trophy in the club's history . . . and the second in just over seven months.

They had beaten Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners' Cup final on May 11, 1983, a fortnight before Hamburg beat Michel Platini's Juventus in the European Cup equivalent. The two underdogs had triumphed, and among their rewards was a two-legged, home-and-away meeting later in the year to contest the Uefa Super Cup.

Fixture congestion, especially in Hamburg's schedule, led to delays in agreeing dates and briefly even a question mark over whether the duel would go ahead at all. Eventually it was settled: the first leg would be in the Volksparkstadion on November 22 and the return at Pittodrie almost a full month later, on December 20.

A combination of horrendous weather and live coverage on German television meant only 15,000 turned out in Hamburg for the first leg, including 2000 from Aberdeen. They saw a cagey goalless draw. Alex Ferguson started with nine of the 11 who had been on at kick-off in Gothenburg, with John Hewitt and Doug Bell in place of John McMaster and Eric Black.

The tie came alive in the second leg. An all-ticket crowd filled Pittodrie. The first half passed without a goal but, early in the second half, Neil Simpson scored and then Mark McGhee added a second. Stewart McKimmie had the distinction of winning a European trophy in only his second appearance, having been signed from Dundee after the first leg.

Hamburg's great star was Felix Magath, the attacking midfielder who had scored their winning goal in the European Cup final. Magath was capped 43 times by West Germany and helped them win the 1980 European Championship.

Yesterday, reminded of the Super Cup anniversary, he laughed when confessing that he had fonder memories of Hamburg putting Aberdeen out of the 1981 Uefa Cup than he had of losing to Ferguson's men two seasons later. "It was a great period for Hamburg, between 1980 and 1983, the best time the club has ever had. We felt like we were the best team. That Juve team was a great team, bigger than Hamburg, but we beat them in the final. Aberdeen were really strong.

"At the end of 1983 we went through a bad time. We lost in the league, we lost the Super Cup, we lost a cup game in Germany. It was a really difficult period for us and really the Super Cup came at the wrong time. We had played them in the Uefa Cup a couple of seasons earlier as well; I remember we lost only 3-2 at Pittodrie but we were lucky that night and we managed to go through after the second leg. It's easier for me to remember that!"

Neither club had it so good again. Aberdeen had another three years under Ferguson and his departure accelerated a retreat from the summit of European and domestic football. The late 1970s/early 1980s also proved to be Hamburg's halcyon days. Having won the Bundesliga and the European Cup in 1983, they have yet to win either of them again.

McGhee had also scored against Hamburg in the Uefa Cup meeting and repeating that in the Super Cup convinced them to buy him at the end of the 1983/84 campaign. The clubs maintained a loose connection after that. In 2003, when Aberdeen celebrated its centenary, Hamburg were invited for their third visit to Pittodrie and recorded a 3-2 win.

The Uefa Super Cup was introduced in 1972. That was too late for Celtic's European Cup winners to contest it, as well as being the year Rangers, as European Cup-Winners' Cup winners, had the misfortune to face European Cup holders Ajax. They were beaten home and away by Johan Cruyff's wonderful team.

Aberdeen's pleasure in winning the Super Cup is often disparaged by others, although the players who won it respond by inviting critics to beat the European champions over two games before continuing the conversation.

What the Super Cup means around Pittodrie was confirmed in 2005 when the club incorporated two stars above the club crest its shirts: one for each European trophy.

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