Scotland, bloody Scotland. Less than three decades ago, home to a great footballing side, one feared, or at least admired, throughout Europe and beyond, for punching well beyond its weight. Now it has fallen on hard times: mediocrity has replaced magic. It’s a shift that didn’t happen overnight. But day by day, week by week, it took place right in front of our eyes. Today we no longer recognise the body.
New managers were brought in every few years, some foreign, some familiar – all failed to reverse the tide of despair. Now a team that once regularly appeared in the later stages of championships are knocked out early doors, by teams that were once considered minnows to be swept aside.
But we’re not talking about the national team: we’re team talking about Aberdeen FC. Dear, oh dear, Aberdeen. East Fife?
Losing on penalties, away from home, in an unfamiliar and tight wee ground – well, that can be excused – just about.
But losing at home? To a team of part-timers who would have spent half the day sitting in a bus playing cards on their way up the A90 from Fife?
Craig Brown said it was arguably the worst result of his managerial career. He managed Scotland when we drew 1-1 with the Faroe Islands, so he knows something about bad results.
He also held his hands up and admitted that he may have got his team selection wrong, leaving out three of his best players. Me, I’m not sure Aberdeen even have any “best players” these days.
Thtat’s still no excuse. I’ve written in the past about the huge disparity in resources available to the top clubs in Europe versus the top clubs in Scotland. Now, Man U’s payroll is around eight times that of Celtic or Rangers, but I’m not sure the same principle applies here. East Fife’s average home attendance this season is 759; Aberdeen’s home crowds are ten times that. Imagine Celtic playing against the entire English Premiership, as a comparison.
If it was a one-off result, it could be excused, but in the last decade or so, the not-so-dandy Dons have made a habit of losing to lower-league teams: Raith Rovers, Dundee, Dunfermline, Queen of the South, Queen’s Park… And now East Fife, a team whose golden age ended when sugar stopped being rationed after World War II.
Aberdeen’s golden age is now well over a quarter-century ago, and receding into the distance, fast.
When was the last time an Aberdeen player even lifted a trophy? I’ll tell you when. In May this year, when on-loan captain Ricky Foster lifted the league trophy with his temporary Rangers team-mates.
And that’s as close as any Aberdeen player will get to success for many years to come. It’s time we stopped believing Aberdeen are a big team. They’re no bigger than St Johnstone, or St Mirren, or Dundee. Once they accept that fact, their world might change. Until then, they are living on past glories.