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On This Day | 21st May 1983

May 21, 2020 12:04 am Author: Red Matchday Team (Kevin Stirling) (Andrew Morrison) (Malcolm Panton)
On This Day | 21st May 1983


Rangers 0 v 1 Aberdeen
1983 Scottish Cup Final

A Scottish Cup Final is normally the highlight of a long season and a last chance to win some silverware for the fans. Given what had already happened, this season is slightly different and although a win today would not eclipse the success of ten days ago this was still a trophy that had resided in the Dons trophy room for 12 months and Aberdeen were determined it would stay there. Ferguson selected the same starting eleven that had lifted the Cup in Gothenburg, but it was not a memorable 90 minutes with few chances created by either side. And so, like 12 months earlier, this final went to extra time. The Dons still had enough energy to dig deep and Eric Black grabbed the only goal of the game four minutes before the end when McGhee fired in a low cross. The ball took a wicked deflection off of Paterson and hung in the air. Black leapt like a salmon and headed the ball into the empty net and the cup was coming home.


The Story of the 1983 Final

It is not very often that a manager who has just led his team to a national cup success would launch fierce criticism of his players immediately after the final whistle.

Such was the high standards set by Alex Ferguson back during his Aberdeen career that was exactly what happened after the Dons had completed a marvellous ECWC and Scottish Cup double in 1983.

In what was the Dons 60th and final competitive game of the 1982.83 season, it was a surprising outburst by Fergie as he watched his players take the all too familiar lap of honour around Hampden Park. Ferguson lambasted his players with the exception of Willie Miller and Alex McLeish, who Fergie stated; “They won the cup for Aberdeen, no one else. The players were a disgrace. It is not an acceptable performance from Aberdeen. We set high standards and we fell well below them today.”

Sir Alex later retracted his statements made immediately after the final whistle in front of the watching millions on live television. Ferguson gathered his squad around the breakfast table the day after at the team hotel and apologised to his players.

Aberdeen centre half Alex McLeish recalled that his manager went up in his estimation as a manager and a person after that moment as he believed that it must have been a difficult thing to do.

Aberdeen went into the 1983 Scottish Cup Final as hot favourites to make it a memorable ECWC and Scottish Cup double.

The euphoria that surrounded the club and the city was centred around what Aberdeen had been doing in Europe; all new territory for the Dons as they progressed to the final of the European Cup Winners Cup and they would go on to defeat the famous Real Madrid in a memorable night in Sweden.

The Aberdeen squad had been stretched to the limit as the Dons retained an interest in both cups and the Premier League right up until the final kick of the season. There was no doubt that despite the outstanding success the club achieved that season, the strain of achieving their targets had taken its’ toll.

Such was the Dons success The Scottish Cup Final by some was merely looked upon as just another day at the office for Aberdeen. While that approach may have been over confidence on the Dons part, there was no doubt that back then Aberdeen believed that they could take on any side in world football and rarely lose.

It was that steely belief and ring of confidence amongst the players that helped Aberdeen achieve so much.

The more cynical have always claimed that any domestic success is not worthy of merit unless it is achieved against either of the Old Firm in their own backyard. Aberdeen were on course for a second Scottish Cup in a row after the Dons had outclassed Rangers in the 1982 final. With Rangers still struggling to catch up with Aberdeen on the field the pressure was on the Ibrox club to end the Aberdeen domination. Under John Greig Rangers had improved but were still seen as rank outsiders against a Dons side that looked unbeatable that year.

Aberdeen had been battling on three fronts and only fell at the final hurdle in the league race with Celtic and Dundee Utd going for the title. The later rounds of the Scottish Cup were also played at the same time as Aberdeen were battling their way through to the ECWC Final as Bayern Munich and Waterschei were defeated along the way.

There was no easy road to Hampden for the Dons as they beat Hibernian 4-1 at Easter Road in the 3rd round, Dundee 1-0 at Pittodrie, then Partick Thistle 2-1 at Firhill in the quarter final. The semi final brought Aberdeen and Celtic together at Hampden and with the Waterschei tie in Belgium coming up in midweek, it was a critical point in the Aberdeen season.

A Peter Weir header was enough to take Aberdeen through to the final and keep the Dons on course for a dream cup double. In contrast Rangers made heavy weather of a kind route to the final with wins over Falkirk, Forfar, Queens Park and St Mirren in the semi final.

It took a late goal from former Aberdeen coach Sandy Clark to send Rangers through in their replayed semi final against the Paisley side. Aberdeen captain Willie Miller was wary of his side being tagged as hot favourites to lift the trophy; “Rangers have a great record in the cup and they have beaten us this season so it might be difficult for us to be seen as overwhelming favourites. We have to prove we are a better team than Rangers at Hampden on Saturday.”

Aberdeen had a couple of injury doubts before Ferguson could name his side but he was keeping that under wraps. Ferguson was confident his side would prevail; “Rangers best chance might be the fact that they are seen as underdogs for the final. Their supporters will expect a lot from their team and this will make them a dangerous opponent. However if we show anything like our Gothenburg form we will do alright.”

Aberdeen prepared in the build up to the game with a relaxed attitude and combined a stay on the Aberdeenshire coast with a round of golf to relax the players who had achieved so much in a hard season. Alex McLeish, Eric Black and Mark McGhee were all nursing knocks in the build up to the game but all three would make it into the starting eleven, which showed only two changes from the aide the demolished Rangers the year before. Andy Watson and Peter Weir came in to the 13 for the injured Stuart Kennedy and Doug Bell. Manager Ferguson dismissed claims that Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners Cup would make his side less interested in lifting the Scottish Cup; “That is ridiculous. I can assure you that the players’ appetite for honours is just as sharp as it was in Gothenburg. There is no lack of incentive. We could become the first team outside of the Old Firm to win the Scottish Cup two years in a row and this could be the first time that Aberdeen have won two major trophies in the same season; the players will be prepared.”

Rangers confidence took a hammering after they lost their last game to Celtic 4-2 after being two goals ahead at the interval. John Greig admitted that he would have to raise his players’ morale; “If the match had finished at half time last week we would be bubbling, but I will have to lift our spirits after what happened in the second half. This is the last week of the season though and what better way than to finish with a cup final?”

Rangers showed no less than six changes to their side that lost to Aberdeen twelve months previously and included in their side was Scotland international Jim Bett. Meanwhile Aberdeen’s ECWC final opponents Real Madrid were on a real downer as a testimonial match scheduled against Aston Villa for their talisman Benito was sensationally cancelled as fans of Madrid turned their back on their side in the aftermath of their defeat to Aberdeen.

The final itself was a disappointment for the 62,979 attendance as the Dons struggled to show their European form at Hampden. In a tense match bereft of any clear cut chances the best opportunity in the 90 minutes fell to Bett who brought out a great save from Jim Leighton in the second half. Bett’s fierce drive from the edge of the box looked goal bound until Leighton threw himself to tip the ball over the bar. While Aberdeen controlled the match for long spells of possession they barely mustered any real scoring opportunities and the inevitable extra time loomed with both sides showing signs of a long hard season.

With cup finals back then going to a second game if it ended in a draw, which was the last thing Aberdeen wanted in what was their 60th game of the season. With just four minutes left of extra time, Aberdeen conjured up the winning goal to the delight and relief of the 25,000 travelling Red Army. Mark McGhee set off down the right and his cross spun wickedly off Rangers defender Craig Paterson high up into the Rangers box. It was Aberdeen’s big-game specialist Eric Black who reacted first and he rose to head past a despairing Peter McCloy in the Rangers goal to give Aberdeen a victory and round off a memorable season.

For Rangers it was a bitter blow against their rivals and another victory that confirmed Aberdeen as the best team in the country. Rangers drew comfort from the fact that Aberdeen as holders, would be defending their ECWC crown the following season which allowed the Ibrox club entry into the ECWC competition on the back of the Dons success.

ABERDEEN; Leighton, Rougvie, McMaster, Cooper, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Simpson, McGhee, Black, Weir. Subs; Watson, Hewitt.

Rangers; McCloy, Dawson, McClelland, McPherson, Paterson, Bett, Cooper, McKinnon, Clark, Russell, MacDonald. Subs; Dalziel, Davies.
Referee; D Syme

Attendance; 62,979


Back in 1970 Aberdeen scored their 500th Scottish Cup goal when Derek McKay netted his first goal of the final in the 3-1 win over Celtic. This Dons team had the chance to repeat that achievement as going into the match they were sitting on 598 Scottish Cup goals. Eric Black’s extra time strike made it 599, but they couldn’t find that second goal to make it 600 on the day. The red army were not bothered as they were just happy to witness another cup win.


Manchester United and Brighton drew 2-2 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley today. Stapleton and Wilkins had scored for United and Gordon Smith and Gary Stevens were on target for Brighton. With the minutes ticking away Gordon Smith had a great chance to seal Brighton’s first ever F.A. Cup win, but watched in horror as his effort was saved by Bailey in the United goal. United won the replay 4-0.


The fight against apartheid came to the streets this week when 17 people were killed and more than 197 people injured in a car bomb explosion in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. The explosion, believed to have been carried out by the African National Congress, happened in a busy street at the height of the city’s rush hour. The dead and injured were transported to three hospitals in and around the city as police sealed off the area with a barbed-wire fence. Four days after the attack the South African Air Force retaliated when they bombed ANC bases in Maputo, Mozambique, killing six people, including two children.


The Tories have released their election manifesto and have included plans to abolish the Greater London Council (GLC) and six metropolitan counties. The Tories manifesto is less controversial than Labour’s who are looking to withdraw from the EEC and adopt a policy of Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament.


American police have been clamping car wheels since 1955, but the practice is heading over the Atlantic. This week, the London boroughs of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea both introduced the idea. Used to enforce parking regulations, many see this as a potential money making scam against motorists.

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