Tag Archive for: legends

alex smith northern light

A look at the Alex Smith years, and The Northern Light fanzine.

plane aberdeen

plane aberdeen

I saw Ronaldinho play for Barcelona in the Nou Camp, Camp Nou (make up yer feckin’ minds) while he was the best player in the world. Rijkaard had taken over as manager, it had started badly, then *Bartha* went on a run of about eleven wins in a row, the beginning of the little bit too short window of Ronaldinho being the man.

It was about game seven of that run, Davids got sent off. Athletico Madrid they were playing I think. Ronaldinho was just incredible, unstoppable. I was with a Danish girlfriend (number 3 in a series), the loveliest, coolest Scandinavian chic you could ever meet (of course I’d go on to self destruct it)  but for that magical weekend in Barcelona, with that football match, with Ronaldinho at his prime, I was in heaven.

Best footballer I ever saw, the greatest footballing experience of my life, Peter Weir in an Aberdeen shirt.

Everyone connected with Gothenburg is a legend. Everyone worthy of unending gratitude. But it was Weir and Willie Miller who had their own special stratosphere. My greatest footballing privilege. To see Peter Weir play.

I have a late memory, a sad memory. Can’t remember who we were playing. Mystified at Peter not getting a game. For Gary Hackett? This had been going on for a while, before a game all the players warming up, Peter started doing this incredible bit of skill by himself. I can’t remember what it was, but the crowd got behind it. Were watching him, were with him. He was making a statement. I think he was gone within a few weeks. Our next decent left winger was Jonny Hayes. Three decades later. Jonny is a lovely guy by all accounts, and was a great Dandy, but not a tenth of Peter Weir. Porterfield you blundering thundercunt.

We can’t end with that. I will badly paraphrase a story left on the page a couple of years ago. Apologies to whoever left it, if you recognize it, want your name on, want it revised, let me know.

A plane full of Dandies flying to Gothenburg for the final. A wee bit fired up. The stewardess starts doing the safety instructions, before take off. Every time she mentions the rear of the plane, the whole plane keeps bursting into a round of ‘Peter Weir, Peter Weir, Peter Weir’ (to the Here we go song). The safety instructions take quite a while. Finally the plane takes off, literally bouncing up the runway to the sound of Peter Weir, Peter Weir, Peter Weir…

I put it forward, Peter Weir is not just a legend, not just a Gothenburg Great, perhaps, the greatest of them all.

charlie-nicholas

It’s all very well wallowing in the brilliance of Charlie Nicholas’s goal against Celtic, that hit the back of the net without touching the ground from the keeper’s hands, without mentioning the rest of the game. It’s football, it’s never just one thing, it’s never straight forward.

If you were at that game, you remember that goal. I’ve been to lots of games I remember almost nothing about. This game I remember.

I had this flatmate Kev from Essex. A post grad something or other. Kev was a Gooner. Kev was so laid back to be almost asleep. Kev had an incredibly dry wit and he knew how to wind me up no end.

He once said he thought sex was overrated in a nonchalant way, and he didn’t really enjoy it. His girlfriend was stunning. I was single. He was that guy, and still infuriatingly likeable.

Kev would say ‘Scottish football is rubbish’, and ‘never got what the fuss had been about Charlie Nicholas when he had arrived at Arsenal anyway’, ‘He was supposed to score all these goals…’, ‘just because he scored in a cup final’, ‘always thought he was shit’.

I won’t take the bait, I won’t take the bait, I won’t take the bait…

I took the bait, and then off he’d fuck to his room, having riled me up, and him still as calm as the proverbial cucumber.

So me and Kev were at Aberdeen v Celtic. Bobby Mimms kicks, Gillhaus’s head, over Charlie’s shoulder, BANG. Pittodrie erupts. I erupt. On my way back down from ten feet in the air, I remember what was really important at that moment. Amongst all the celebration in the South Stand, I turn to Kev, look him straight in the eyes, and nod, THERE!

This goal.

Thanks to that goal, I have won. Scottish football is not rubbish, it is fantastic, Charlie Nicholas is a brilliant player, and Aberdeen are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen…

Of course Kev doesn’t respond, as he is too laid back to show any emotion, but there is a hint of defeat on his face. All I needed for victory. So I sit back and wait for Aberdeen to kick on. A packed Pittodrie, Gillhaus and Charlie have just combined for that goal, let the show really begin.

They did literally fuck all the rest of the game. With every passing minute, I could feel my victory slipping away. Celtic equalize. Maybe this will wake them up to kick on. They’ll hit the ‘total football button’, and push on to a brilliant victory against a pretty piss poor Celtic team.

Did they fuck. I’m not sure if Charlie Nicholas even touched the ball again that game. Like a collection of mercenaries who believe they’d done what they were paid for, and are just going through the motions.

As the game goes on, I stupidly glance towards Kev. The hint of a smug little grin is back. No words are being spoken, he doesn’t need to. I’m getting angrier and angrier. With Scottish football, with Charlie fucking Nicholas, with that bastard Kev. 

Training days

charlie nicholas aberdeen training

Charlie Nicholas training at Aberdeen. You see if ye tuck yer sweatshirt intae yer troosers, yer gonna look a wee bit fat there Charlie. I took this photo when I was an art student. I got permission from the club. A letter from Ian Porterfield himself! The idea was I’d take photos with a view to an illustration project. Little bit of a problem, despite having borrowed a zoom lens from a fellow student (nothing like what the pros use) being a shy young fella, I didn’t get close enough to them, for it to make any difference.

willie miller aberdeen training

Yeah, the coolest man on the park, the coolest man in the world…
Peter Nicholas on the ball. Not sure the two behind him. Big Bri, Wullie, and a young Michael Watt, who was third keeper then. I remember a huge cheer from all the players after a good save. I think probably very new to first team training.

aberdeen fc training

I lost about a half a stone that day from the sheer anxiety of the experience.  I don’t think Wullie was impressed with the far off, anxious looking art student in his denim jacket and jeans, a wee bit too far away…
Tom Jones, Paul Wright, Peter Nicholas, I think Ian Robertson, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish.

john hewitt aberdeen

Aye is it.

charlie nicholas aberdeen celtic

charlie nicholas aberdeen

How Charlie Nicholas signed for Aberdeen was a fascinating story. This is all pre Sky TV where very little football was on TV, live at any rate, and the money in England was nothing like now. Charlie had been the most sought after player in the UK while at Celtic. He turned down Liverpool. The all conquering Liverpool of the seventies and early eighties. He chose Arsenal. Odd to think now but Charlie Nicholas was considered a looker, a sex symbol, was on the covers of magazines, was quite the star. And had probably quite the lifestyle to go with it.

Then George Graham took over at Arsenal. Graham decided he didn’t want him.

But why did we get him? One reason was, we had the cash. Aberdeen FC were a very cash rich club for a few years. The Ferguson legacy money. All those trophies, all that success, buying cheap, selling expensive, developing talent, not paying exorbitant salaries. A very well run club, who’d had the manager of a generation in charge. They had even developed parts of the stadium, something very unusual at that time in British football. All very sound management.

Ian Porterfield who came next, said after he had left the club, ‘you’ve no idea, how much money I had to spend. But I wouldn’t just blow it’. Something like that. But he did sign Charlie Nicholas. And unforgivably punted Peter Weir out the door almost the same day. Because the one thing Charlie Nicholas wasn’t going to need was a winger to supply him with ammo…

When Nicholas signed, Brian Clough made an odd comment, ‘that’s a long way to go for a game of football’. It seems Graham wouldn’t sell Nicholas to any of Arsenal’s rivals. Any of the clubs that could have afforded his then wages, or with managers who could have gotten the slightly wayward Nicholas back on track.

I saw an interview with Nicholas recently where he said he was lined up to go to France, Graham scuppered it for him (this is pre-Bosman) and Nicholas believed it was out of jealousy.

For the next few years George Graham’s Arsenal would go onto huge success. Not only shafted by Graham, but to sit back and watch him, and his former team mates doing very well, must have been incredibly hard, or at least very mixed emotions.

Charlie himself never showed it, publicly at least. He was always very positive about the city of Aberdeen, and the club, without ever patronising us supporters either. There must have been a fair bit of tabloid pressure on him. From Stringfellows nightclub to training at Balgownie kind of thing.

The Wenger years

As it turned out, Graham was sacked by Arsenal when he got caught stealing. He then went to a couple of different clubs where a pattern emerged. At Leeds Utd, their star striker Yeboah, dropped, finished, Thomas Brolin the same. At Spurs, Ginola, dropped, finished. What they all have in common with Charlie, they were presumably underperforming, but they were probably the most naturally gifted players in their respective squads, and as flair players, loved by supporters. Was it to engender team spirit, or to show who was in charge, or did Graham just like to destroy a career?

I went to an Arsenal game once at Highbury under Graham when I moved to London in 93. It was against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, in what would become Clough’s last season. Inside twenty minutes Ian Wright had scored two sensational goals. Incredible to see. English football was fab. www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2byTsNG2FA (looks like a Pathe Newsreel now…)

They then 30 minutes in, proceeded to park the bus. 2-0 up, playing at home, against a Forest team that would eventually be relegated. So ‘boring boring Arsenal’ wasn’t just a bit of football banter. George Graham’s teams were horrible to watch.


Update: After posting this I bumped into Graham Hunter’s interview with Charlie Nicholas. Highly recommended listening. www.grahamhunter.tv/category/the-big-interview/. The rest of his work is also outstanding.

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Why the bottle of Becks in the illustration? Whenever Gordon Reid drew ‘Champagne Charlie’ in The Northern Light fanzine, he invariably had a bottle of Becks in his hand. It was never the main part of the joke, it was never explained, it was just there. I always thought it incredibly funny. Cheers Gordon!

And the Mimms, Gillhaus, Charlie goal. www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFhbeK_vu2M

Leighton Snelders

Jim Leighton versus Theo Snelders, who was best?