Red Matchday Seven Preview
The Main interview is with Michael Devlin, the Q&A with Andrew Considine, the Development Don featured is Connor Barron and the FP’s interview is with Stephen Glass.
Saturday’s Dolly Digital masterpiece is a nod to The Ramones, the debut studio album by the American punk rock band of the same name, released on April 23, 1976.
As for The Dons in April ‘76, they were in deep deep trouble ….
It was all change in Scottish football as the radical move to a three-league set up came into force. Not since the enforced changes after World War II had there been such a shake-up of the league system.
The new ‘elite’ Premier League came into force with the top ten sides from season 1974/75 forming the new top division as efforts to enhance the game in Scotland were made. With two teams falling out of that elite group, the casualty rate was high and the quality that was promised never fully materialised.
At Pittodrie, it proved to be the end for manager Jim Bonthrone as the Dons struggled and found themselves near the foot of the new league.
The signs were not good as they played their first ever Premier League game at Dundee on August 30th 1975. Within two minutes, Aberdeen conceded the first goal scored in the league when Bobby Ford netted for the Dens Park side.
When Dons pivot Willie Young was hooked during a game against Dundee United at Pittodrie a month later, the angry defender tore off his shirt and threw it at the Aberdeen bench in disgust.
Young was soon sold to Tottenham and Bonthrone was on his way by October.
That paved the way for Ally MacLeod to join and he set about changing things in his own infectious way.
MacLeod’s first task was to spark some enthusiasm about the place.
While he may never be remembered for his tactical nous, Pittodrie patrons were bemused at the Dons kick-off routine that would see a clutch of players converge out wide before the ball was launched towards their direction. It was a move you would more likely find on a rugby field. While the Dons’ ended the year in sensational style with back to back wins over the Old Firm, they eventually struggled.
After going through the whole of March and April without winning a game, the Dons’ final League match of the 1975-76 season was to all intents and purposes a relegation play-off in Aberdeen’s eyes.
The fixture against Hibs took place on April 24th, 1976.
Aberdeen simply had to win and they knew that their superior goal difference would at least see off Dundee if not Dundee United in the battle against the drop.
St Johnstone had already been relegated. Eddie Thomson was sidelined with an ankle knock while Arthur Graham was ruled out by a back injury that had kept him out for the previous three weeks, which meant a continued run for Willie Garner alongside Willie Miller and a debut in the starting line-up for young striker Walker McCall.
The Dons looked fairly composed in an atmospheric opening quarter of an hour with only the midfield showing the real tension lying just under the surface with a series of over hit passes.
Neither side could claim the upper hand at that stage. With 17 minutes gone there were gasps around the stadium as Bobby Clark and Willie Garner looked for the other to intercept a Duncan cross from the left, both left it but thankfully Hibs right winger Murray hurried his shot and pushed his harmless effort tamely wide of the target.
Four minutes later Pittodrie erupted. Walker McCall won a jump off for the ball in the Hibs box but the visitors right back Bobby Smith clearly handled the big fellow’s header and referee Bill Anderson pointed to the spot. Dave Robb came forward to take the crucial award but goalkeeper Mike MacDonald guessed correctly and diving to his right brought off a heartbreaking save in front of the Beach End.
The Dons could have crumbled after spurning their penalty lifeline but if anything, they picked up the tempo after poor Dave Robb’s miss, with the live wire midfield man obviously keen to make up for his lapse. Just on the half hour mark an Aberdeen spell of pressure forced Hibs to concede a free-kick. Chic McLelland pumped the ball into the box, Walker McCall again outjumped the visitors defence and Drew Jarvie forced the youngster’s knock back into the net to put the Dons 1-0 ahead.
With the 11,000 crowd roaring them on, Aberdeen went all out for a killer second goal. Four minutes after taking the lead the Dons opened up Hibs with a superb move that ended with a goal bound flashing header from Drew Jarvie but Mike MacDonald brought off another fine save to keep the visitors in it.
Just before half time Hibs enjoyed a little purple patch of their own and Bobby-Clark had to be on his toes to halt efforts from Pat Stanton and Bobby Smith.
In the opening moments of the second half Willie Miller made a timely tackle to prevent Hibs sub Willie Paterson getting in a shot with his first touch of the ball as the Dons began the period a litde tentatively.
On the hour the Dons were reminded of the slender nature of their advantage when an Ally McLeod shot took a deflection off a home defender before squirting behind off a post on its way behind the goal for a corner kick. Then with 67 minutes on the clock came the moment that lifted the fear of relegation from the Dons.
McLelland sent in a hopeful cross and Joe Smith unleashed an incredible 20 yard volley to make it 2-0. With the fans still in raptures over Smith’s stunning strike Dave Robb stole in behind the right flank of the Hibs defence and squeezed home an amazing 3rd goal from a seemingly impossible angle.
As it turned out anything less than a win would have resulted in relegation for the Dons but their superior goal difference won the day, keeping Aberdeen above Dundee United while poor Dundee were the unlucky side that joined St Johnstone in the 1st Division.
Four years later Aberdeen would beat Hibs in their penultimate league match to win the title but the victory in ‘76 was arguably the most important over Hibernian.
The Easter Road side that season went on to finish in third place, five points behind second placed Celtic. The highlight of the Hibernian season was two titanic UEFA Cup clashes against Liverpool. Former Don Joe Harper scored the only goal in the first leg in Edinburgh before Hibernian went down 3-1 at Anfield.
While they gave Liverpool a tough time of it, the Hibees were stunned in the League Cup. After easing through in their section that included Ayr, Dundee and Dunfermline, Montrose shocked Hibernian in the knock-out stages. Despite also going out of the Scottish Cup to Motherwell in the quarterfinals it was nevertheless a season of progress for the Edinburgh side.
Aberdeen Teamsheet: Clark, Hair, McLelland, Smith, Garner, Miller, Robb, Williamson, Jarvie, Fleming, (Scott) McCall
Hibernian Teamsheet: McDonald, Smith, Schaedler, Stanton, Spalding, Blackley, Murray, Muir, McGhee, MacLeod, Duncan (Paterson)
Red Matchday Archive 1975/76