Pittodrie Stadium has been used as a venue for many international games over the years, even before the Dons were formed in 1903. And back in 1970 our country played host to the UEFA Youth Championships and Pittodrie was one of the chosen venues.
A more recent similar championship, the 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship which was also hosted in Scotland with Pittodrie a chosen venue, was a great success which capture the nations interest. Craig Brown’s young side went on to play in front of 70,000 at Hampden in the final, proving how well it was received by the nation.
But that was certainly not the case in 1970.
In fact, the Scottish football followers were quite apathetic towards the tournament.
The SFA were keen to spread the tournament all across the country which in hindsight may have been an error. The general belief was that the games would be mainly played in the central belt and Dundee and Aberdeen, but from Somerset Park in Ayr to Kingsmills in Inverness the group games were staged. What was unusual for tournaments like this was that it was all over and done with in 10 days with all of the group games and semi finals played at the same time.
Group C was selected for the east with Holland Switzerland, Wales and West Germany competing at Pittodrie, Dens Park and Arbroath’s Gayfield Park. Surprisingly the group’s biggest game, Holland v West Germany went ahead at Gayfield. Pittodrie played host to Wales against West Germany and Switzerland’s ties against the Germans and Wales. Pittodrie patrons turned out in reasonable numbers considering there was no local interest.
Pittodrie | Wales score aganst West Germany
Scotland were based in the west along with Italy, Bulgaria and Sweden. Aberdeen interest centred on young Arthur Graham the lone Don in the Scottish squad and fresh from his Scottish Cup Final heroics against Celtic a month earlier. Also in the Scotland squad were Graeme Souness, Alan Rough and Alfie Conn who all went on to play at full international level, as did Arthur Graham as well as John Brownlie and Derek Parlane.
The Scotland team was well enough supported in their games, and Scotland did well to qualify from a tough group, despite the fact, and not for the first time, they went in to the tournament missing several of their Anglo players who were not released by their clubs. In their first match against holders Bulgaria they did most of the pressing but were perhaps fortunate to escape with a draw. In their next match against Italy at Fir Park the Scots came through 2-1 against a strong Italian side. It was Italian temperament that was their biggest failing and after they were reduced to ten men in the second half, Scotland were worthy winners. A comfortable win in their last game eased out Bulgaria on goal difference.
Scotland in action
Group B was in the north and France and Hungary were the favourites and it was a single goal that separated both sides in the final analysis with the French squeezing through.
Much was expected of the Welsh who had knocked England out of the qualifying stages to get to the finals but they were disappointing as only one point was gained against eventual group winners Holland.
The Dutch team qualified by virtue of a last minute blunder by the German keeper in the crucial deciding tie. East Germany made up the last of the semi finalists as they cruised through their section against Turkey, Belgium and Romania.
The highest attendance of the tournament and the one game that did attract huge interest was the semi final between Scotland and Holland at Ibrox.
More than 30,000 turned out to support the young Scots. Despite some sustained pressure from the home side it was the superior technique of the Holland players that proved decisive and the Dutch made it too the final with a 1-0 win that perhaps flattered Scotland.
In the other semi final at Somerset Park Ayr, the France v East Germany tie finished 1-1. In the days before the excitement of a penalty shoot out, the game was decided on the toss of a coin and it was East Germany who were lucky enough to progress.
Scotland’s Alfie Conn (2nd Right) celebrates with teammates
With Scottish interest lost at the semi final stage only 2,953 turned up at Hampden Park on 25th May 1970.
In the final the East Germans showed an attacking ability that had eluded them in previous matches and surprised the more gifted Holland side. Hafner opened the scoring for East Germany in the first half and Holland hit back in the second to take the Final in to extra time and almost inevitably the dreaded toss of the coin to decide the ‘winner’.
As luck would have it the East German captain called it right and this was the last European competition that would be decided in this way.
Older Aberdeen fans will not need reminding that the Dons were the first team to go out of Europe by the new penalty kicks method. Aberdeen went out to Honved in Budapest some four months later in their ECWC 1st round tie.
Scotland seemed to punch above their weight on occasion and they finished a fine tournament for them by beating France 2-0 at Firhill to claim third spot.
There were several young players in the tournament that would go on to make a career in the game. Wales had Leighton James, Sweden had Ralf Edstrom, France had Alan Giresse and Raymond Domenech, amongst the Dutch squad were Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep and the Van Der Kerkhof brothers who all went on to play for Holland in World Cup Finals. The West Germany squad included Paul Breitner who later returned to Pittodrie with Bayern Munich in 1983 as a World Cup winner and also Bernd Schuster, Uli Hoeness and Rainer Bonhof.
As for the eventually winners, East Germany, they had been runners up the year before in France and would finish third in Czechoslovakia in 1971.
Some of their players went on to win a Bronze medal at the 1972 Olympics and also featured in the 1974 World Cup, where they stunned West Germany 1-0 in the most politically charged game ever to take place at the Finals.
Their greatest success came when they won the gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
An incredible period of success when you consider most of their players would have been part-time.
SCOTLAND U16 V SWEDEN U16 Young fans invade the pitch at the end of the match
Teams who qualified for the finals, and in order of how the groups finished:
Group A – Scotland, Bulgaria , Sweden, Italy
Group B – France, Hungary, Finland, Norway
Group C – Netherlands, West Germany, Switzerland, Wales
Group D – East Germany, Belgium, Romania, Turkey
Games Played at Pittodrie | Group C
16/05/1970 – West Germany vs Wales – Aberdeen – Pittodrie
18/05/1970 – West Germany vs Switzerland – Aberdeen – Pittodrie
20/05/1970 – Switzerland vs Wales – Aberdeen – Pittodrie
Group C Results
16.05 Dundee Netherlands 6-1 Switzerland
16.05 Aberdeen West Germany 3-2 Wales
18.05 Dundee Netherlands 1-1 Wales
18.05 Aberdeen West Germany 2-1 Switzerland
20.05 Abroath Netherlands 2-1 West Germany
20.05 Aberdeen Switzerland 1-0 Wales
16.05 Ayr Bulgaria 2-2 Scotland
18.05 Motherwell Scotland 2-1 Italy
20.05 Greenock Scotland 5-0 Sweden
23.05 Glasgow Netherlands 1-0 Scotland
23.05 Ayr East Germany 1-1 France [East Germany on coin toss]
Third Place Match
25.05 Glasgow Scotland 2-0 France
25.05 Glasgow East Germany 1-1 Netherlands aet [East Germany on coin toss]
Pittodrie Gallery (photos copyright red matchday archive)