A look at the Alex Smith years, and The Northern Light fanzine.
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.
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, without complications.
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 over rated 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.
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!
Victory is mine
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, or care about anything, ever, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Aye is it.
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.
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
Jim Leighton versus Theo Snelders, who was best?
“These guys have contacts in Dubai and one of them had asked if it would be possible for Ed Sheeran to play there and they then asked me.
“When I first considered it, I thought ‘How the hell do you go about that?’ and then I realised he was playing at Hampden in the summer so I contacted those in the know.
“They put me in touch and I quickly established he had been there last year and wasn’t coming again, so within a couple of days I had them a very clear answer.”
Mark McGhee. www.bbc.com/sport/football/45573933
So, you want to contact Ed Sheeran’s manager?
Now we’ve all got Ed Sheeran’s manager’s contact details, because it’s not a fucking secret!
And it took, seconds to find. And if we got in touch, we’d probably have a reply from one of his assistants within the hour. Probably with a ‘no, but thanks for your enquiry’, Sheeran’s probably booked up at least two years in advance at any given time.
Meanwhile back in Mark McGhee world
Hello, The Scottish Football Association, how can I help you?
Oh hi Mark, what can I help you with?
Yeah boss, it’s Mark McGhee on the phone.
Oh yeah, how can we help him.
We-ell, he’s after Ed Sheeran’s contact details.
Sorry what, I thought for a second you said…
We’re the SFA, we can’t organise Scottish football, why on earth would…
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Let me make a phone call.
Hello is that Craigie Broon, how are ya?
Didn’t one of your ex girl friends used to go out with Ed Sheeran?
Thought so, do you have his manager’s number? Can you dig out your filofax?
You can contact the Mark McGhee Detective Agency on fax number 9-0…
Does anyone else think the Mark McGhee Detective Agency would make a brilliant Sunday evening crime drama. Does anyone have the number for a BBC commissioning editor? What am I thinking, I’ll call the SFA…
Still love the man to bits. Always a legend. Just go watch the CWC Final.
With discussions getting heated between supporters over the merits of singing the Durrant song, I will go into how I remember the event and the aftermath. It was the beginning of the Souness era. We had been top dogs, they were trying to take that from us, spending vast sums of money.
I was at the game, tensions were very high. They had signed a Gothenburg great, Neale Cooper from Aston Villa. I don’t know the details, but as I remember, there was a photo in the Evening Express of Neale training with the Aberdeen squad. It had come that close. As I remember there had been difficulties between Aston Villa and Aberdeen when Neale left. Haggling over the fee by Villa. When it didn’t work out, and Aberdeen tried to bring him back, they started haggling the other way. I believe Doug Ellis would have been there then. On a point of principle, Aberdeen backed out of the deal. Souness stepped in. Something very similar happened when Peter Weir was to return to Scotland from Leicester. So he went to St Mirren. Fantastic Aberdeen FC directors principles. Again, I wasn’t there, I haven’t researched it, it’s how I remember it.
At the game, who scores for them, but Neale. The atmosphere is horrible. So many emotions. A couple of odd things I remember at the game. Two old guys in front of me, criticising the Aberdeen players during the warm up, they never stopped moaning. There was a lot of noise, unfortunately all my ears could hear was those two. As if it was the only channel my ears could pick up.
I also remember the photographers after half time. Something very new then happened. There were far more photographers back then for a game like that. Print media was bigger, and no digital photography. It was one nil them at half time, almost all the photographers went behind the Aberdeen goal for the second half. We won 2-1. The photographers were behind the wrong goal.
The tackle. I had a good view. For the first and last time at a football match, I turned my head away instinctively. As a football supporter, you’ve no idea how bad someone is hurt, the only instinct, hope Simmie isn’t sent off. The two old guys in front of me, then come into their own. ‘Didnae look like a foul to me’. No word of a lie.
After a very long delay, off goes Durrant. Unbelievably unprofessionally, and doing immense damage to his knee I’d imagine, on a physio’s back.
The sad but ominous site of Durrant piggy-backed off. The two old guys, ‘Well that’ll be Rangers excuse the morin’. I’m warming to them now.
Afterwards was horrific. The Glasgow media showing themselves for the vile, dangerous, pig ignorant arseholes that they are. Simmie was in a Scotland squad at the time, never picked again. Every game, they’d bring it up, we were also their biggest rivals. I’d say also the Glasgow media wouldn’t have enjoyed the Ferguson years. This was payback.
There was another element with Souness. As a Scotland player playing for Liverpool, then Sampdoria, he was deeply unpopular with the Glasgow media. Any bad Scotland result and the Glasgow media would blame the strutting ‘Anglo-Scot’. The ferocious back peddling they had to do when he took over at Rangers, to prove their loyalty to Souness, was nothing short of sick. A precedent that would lead to the death of Rangers, and a bad word on Sir David Murray yet to be written in the Scottish MSM.
Whatever footballing rivalries, no matter what is done, or said in the height of passion of a football match, no-one wants another human hurt (seriously hurt). Last week people shouting at Jack in the back of an ambulance? We saw him walk off the fucking pitch. He was clearly not out for long.
When I first became a Pittodrie season ticket holder as a student it was the Porterfield years. Not that much excitement. One of my fondest memories at Pittodrie, was Simmie after being out for a spell injured, starting to warm up from the substitutes bench. The buzz, the atmosphere, the anticipation, the sheer love that came down from the support was amazing. And that was before that tackle.
He made a mistake, we are all human, let him and Durrant forget it. What is the worst in my opinion, is the absolute legend that is Neil Simpson, a sensational hard, but fair and incredibly skilled midfielder, (look at that goal against Waterschei) is remembered for THAT tackle, and not everything else. And singing that fucking song, is continuing that. You want to provoke The Rangers, why are you singing a song that relates to a dead club? And why sing it at Dens Park? There’s a million ways to provoke them. But that isn’t one of them.