Super Cup | the story
The European Super Cup was created in 1972 on the back of the successful Ajax side that brought the ‘total football’ concept to the game. They were keen to be tested by the best and to determine which side were the best in Europe. The proposal to UEFA was that the Champions Cup winners would play the ECWC Winners on an annual basis and this was met with widespread approval in an effort to declare which side was the best in the continent.
When Aberdeen came up against Hamburg in 1983 it provided the Dons with an ideal opportunity to avenge their UEFA Cup defeat in 1981. That result rankled with Aberdeen as they felt that they should have eliminated the Germans at that time and it was a great opportunity missed. Hamburg had progressed to become worthy European champions after defeating Juventus to lift the Champions trophy while Aberdeen went on to defeat Real Madrid in the ECWC Final. Both side agreed to play the ties in December after the Dons had safely secured their passage to the last eight of the ECWC in defence of their trophy. Aberdeen were looking to complete a marvellous year by taking the Super Cup.
The Dons had already gathered enough points to have a substantial lead at the top for the league and were also through to the latter stages of the ECWC. Manager Alex Ferguson provided the club with a massive boost when he announced that he had turned down the opportunity to manage Rangers. Fergie declared; “I have unfinished business with Aberdeen. This is a great club and I firmly believe that there is much more that can be achieved here. This side is a great one and I want them to impose themselves on Scottish football and really make their mark. If I did not believe that, then we would all be wasting our time here.”
The first leg of the final was played in the Volkspark Stadion in Hamburg on 22nd November. Ferguson had always admired the German approach to the game and he had learned much from the Dons battles against Hamburg and Bayern Munich. Aberdeen went in to the game looking to at least keep their goal intact which was a measure of their confidence back then. The general belief was that they could beat anyone at Pittodrie although they did not come much bigger than the European Cup holders. In freezing conditions the Dons once again deployed their ‘early defence’ approach which had upset German opponents in previous ties.
The tactic was simple enough in that the Germans would not be allowed the time or space to play in their own half as they had been used to. The 0-0 draw was about right as Hamburg did create some chances of their own but came up against what was arguably the best defence in European football at the time.
On another night it could have been better for Aberdeen as they scorned several chances to take an away goal with them but with the tie finely balanced it set up the decider at Pittodrie. It was a busy time for all concerned at Pittodrie and there was a blow for the Dons after Donald Mackay resigned as Dundee manager and Archie Knox left Pittodrie to take over as boss at Dens in his own right before the return match against Hamburg.
At the same time the Dons snapped up 21-year-old full back Stewart McKimmie in a £90,000 deal from the Dens Park club. In the international arena the Dons had a record six players in the Scotland side that played Northern Ireland; it would have been a magnificent seven had it not been for a rare injury to Willie Miller. The Dons captain however was back in his usual place for the Super Cup Final against Hamburg and it was also a first European appearance for Stewart McKimmie. The all-ticket sell out crowd were also joined by millions all over the world who were watching the game live on television.
Conditions were far from perfect but that did not deter the slick Germans looking lively in the opening stages with some good early possession.
It was Uli Stein the Hamburg keeper who was first called into action though when he had to be alert to smother a low Strachan cross. Felix Magath the Hamburg captain was the major influence in the German side and he was well policed by Neil Simpson who was given the task to shadow the Hamburg play maker. Magath did get free of Simpson’s shackles to send a shot just past the post as Hamburg went in search of an way goal that would have made the Dons task all the more difficult. Aberdeen responded in style and they should have taken the lead when a McKimmie cross was headed on by Hewitt to McGhee whose overhead kick was turned away for a corner. Stein then saved from John Hewitt and McMaster in quick succession as Aberdeen began to turn the screw on the Germans. Hamburg retaliated with some fine moves in the Dons half and they looked a real threat going forward. Just before half time a Doug Bell header just went over the bar as a tense half finished without a goal.
The second half got off to a great start as Aberdeen broke the deadlock with a goal in the opening minute. Peter Weir created the opening with a typical 60-yard run down the left. John Hewitt latched on to Weir’s cross and he set up Neil Simpson to score from close range. That goal almost brought the roof down at the old stadium as the Dons drew confidence from the goal and went on to dominate the game. There was no let up as McGhee then Hewitt both came close to extending the Dons lead. After 64 minutes Aberdeen struck again. Peter Weir had been inspired in the second half and it was from his corner that Mark McGhee scored from close range after Willie Miller had cut the ball back from the touchline.
That second goal secured the Dons victory and they played the game out with a ring of confidence that was a joy to behold. The Dons should have scored more but they came up against Uli Stein who made some sensational saves as the Dons increased the pressure. Hamburg were a well beaten side long before referee Brummeier blew for full time. The whole ground rose to acclaim the Dons at full time as they were presented with their prize and went on a deserved lap of honour. Aberdeen had conquered Europe that year and they were now ‘Kings of Europe’ as the local Press & Journal claimed in the first match reports to emerge. It completed a remarkable year of success for Aberdeen and there was no sign of any let up.
Aberdeen winger had reason to celebrate that evening as news came through that his wife had given birth before the second leg at Pittodrie. It was decided not to let Peter know until full time. Weir’s memorable night was completed with images of him with a Super Cup medal in one hand and baby powder in the other. Weir recalled; “Gothenburg is a fantastic memory. But nothing has ever come as close to the emotions I felt against Hamburg at Pittodrie. Not only did I lift the trophy in front of 22,000 ecstatic Aberdeen fans, but within seconds of the final whistle I discovered that my wife had gave birth to another son! On the day of the game I left our home in the Bridge of Don to join up with the lads for a pre match meal. It was not until later that I realised my wife had been taken in to hospital less than half an hour after I had left her. She knew I couldn’t be told. It would have put me right off my game.
Fortunately my parents were on hand and everything was fine. In those days Alex Ferguson had us totally focused on matches. It was yet another huge game for Aberdeen in Europe. We had won the Cup Winners Cup while Hamburg were European Cup holders. To me it was the match that would decide the best team in Europe. Hamburg had the likes of Felix Magath and Manny Kaltz in their team; they were a formidable outfit.
But we were flying and I played well. Kaltz was directly up against me. He wasn’t the quickest and I took advantage of that. Joe Harper later made me man of the match on TV. It was a magical night as once again we had rose to the occasion. Having beaten the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, NO ONE was going to tell us we were not Europe’s best. I remember lifting up the shield and the club secretary Ian Taggart came down to tell me that my wife had given birth to a boy at 7pm. I was totally stunned.
Fergie came up to me and produced one of his famous bruising pats on the back. Then the rest of the lads joined in. For about an hour in the dressing room I was in a daze, I could not believe it. Ninety minutes after the game I was able to see my son. I had a party back at my house and I recall sitting in a quiet moment reflecting; does it get any better than this? Not many people can say they have lifted the Super Cup and then celebrated the birth of your son the same night. I have still got a video in the house of that Super Cup night. I never get tired of watching it—my greatest game”.
“With Sir Alex it was another trophy that could be won so we full out to win the Super Cup. I seem to remember there was quite a bit of time between the two games, a good couple of weeks and also Hamburg were playing in the Intercontinental World Cup as well so it was quite a challenge to find dates to get the games played as we were both in the middle of our seasons.
“Archie Knox used to go over and watch the opponents. We used the then get two A4 sheets of all the players and their strengths and weaknesses. The sheets were typed up, I am not even sure the club had a photocopier at the time so the club secretary would have to type up the sheets 15 times! So we knew all about the Hamburg players we would be facing. We also had tapes of their games, I think they were old beta max tapes! We would watch these on the bus to away games. Sir Alex and Archie were very well organised and tactically very astute. They knew exactly how they wanted us to play against them. they told us how to set up for set pieces, for and against and could pick out their strengths and weaknesses. Everything was quite high tech for the time.
“They had Felix Magath in their side who was one of the best players in Europe at the time. I can’t exactly remember what my instructions were at night but I pretty sure I would have been told to pay special attention to give.
“In the away leg we put in a very good defensive performance, similar to the one we put in against Bayern in the Cup Winners Cup. They did have a few chances so did we. I seem to remember Mark McGhee had a good chance and so did Peter Weir. I have great memories of playing in the two legs and I was fortunate enough to score in the second leg at Pittodrie which was an unbelievable feeling.
“It was a great goal as well! I drove it into the far post! No, basically I made a run into the box. Peter Weir had taken on the full back and left him for dead. Peter had a superb performance that night and was rightly named man of the match. He put in a great cross and I think John Hewitt had gone to meet it but missed the ball and rebounded off the defender. The ball came right back to me but came right between my legs and I swivelled and saw a gap in the corner and I put it in. If you watch the goal again and watch closely you will see that Mark McGhee lands on a guy and stops him from getting up and blocking the shot!
“I was fortunate enough to score in all the big European games at Pittodrie in 1983. I scored against Bayern in the Quarter Finals of the Cup Winners Cup, I scored against Watershei in the semi finals and against Hamburg in the Super Cup. I had a great chance to score in the final against Real Madrid as well. It is like a quiz question because I think there are only Scottish three players who have scored in the Quarter, Semi and Final of a European trophy in the same year. I am one of them if you count the Super Cup as a final. Kenny Dalglish was one of the two others.
“We went for a few drinks after the game but as we had a game on the Saturday there were no wild celebrations. Great memories to be involved in games like that. People say it is only the Super Cup but it is still a European trophy and Aberdeen are still the only Scottish side to win two European trophies. It was a great honour for the club and something all the players are proud to have been involved in.”
Tuesday 20th December 1983 European Super Cup Final at Pittodrie Stadium Aberdeen
Aberdeen 2:0 SV Hamburg Attendance; 22,500
ABERDEEN: Leighton, McKimmie, McMaster, Simpson, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Hewitt, McGhee, Bell, Weir.
Hamburg; Stein, Kalz, Wehmeyer, Jacobs, Hieronymous, Hartwig, Schroder, Groh, Schatzschneider, Magath, Roth