All the Young Dons
Last Saturday Fraser Fyvie became the youngest player to play for Aberdeen. AFC Club Historian Kevin Stirling looks back at the players he beat to take the accolade.
Not many young Aberdeen players have had such an immediate elevation into first team football as Fraser Fyvie enjoyed against Hamilton last week. Fyvie became one of the youngest ever players to play for the Dons in a competitive match at the age of 16 years and four months.
Fyvie of course is not the only 16-year-old who has made his debut for Aberdeen in the past. Just before the start of a new era in the Scottish game with the introduction of the Premier League, a young George Campbell made his Dons debut in a League Cup tie against Hearts on 10th August 1974, just several months after his 16th birthday. Previously the youngest debutant was teenage starlet Tommy Craig who made his first team debut a month short of his 17th birthday against Stirling Albion in December 1967. Craig went on to become the first teenager to command a six-figure fee in British football when he joined Sheffield Wednesday for £100,000 in 1969. Martin Buchan may have been the youngest ever captain of a Scottish Cup winning side, but he was a relatively 'late' debutant at 17 years of age.
Current Aberdeen youth coach Neil Cooper was given his Dons debut by manager Jim Bonthrone when he came on as a substitute against Airdrie in March 1975. Cooper was seen as one of the most gifted of defenders of his time, but was never able to command a regular place in the Aberdeen side before joining Barnsley.
Peterhead manager and Gothenburg hero Neale Cooper took his first team bow against Kilmarnock a month before his 17th birthday in October 1980. Aberdeen as league champions had just sold out their allocation of tickets for their forthcoming European Cup tie with Liverpool that morning. Three years later Cooper was part of the Dons greatest ever side when they won the ECWC in Gothenburg.
Also in that side was John Hewitt, who scored the winning goal that took the trophy to Pittodrie. Hewitt was another local player who made his debut as a 16-year old against St Mirren in December 1979. Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson had completely overhauled the youth set up during his early days at the club and it was no surprise to see so many of the younger players being given an early opportunity to make their mark.
While that period in Aberdeen history brought the best of times and the natural progression of some of the clubs greatest players, in more recent times the need to bring through younger players has been through necessity due to the current climate in Scottish football. Aberdeen turned to youth in a big way in 2000 after some erratic spending under Ebbe Skovdahl did not improve the Dons fortunes.
More recently under the troubled times of Steve Paterson, the likes of Ryan O'Leary and David Donald were handed first team debuts at a young age.
Both Fyvie and Johnathan Crawford who also played last week offer a fascinating insight to the future Aberdeen side that will no doubt develop under Mark McGhee.