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. As I remember, there was a photo in the Evening Express of Neale training with the Aberdeen squad a couple of days before the game. It had come that close. It was heartbreaking. A tie that always would have had an electric come poisonous atmosphere was dialed up to eleven. The Aberdeen support were angry and upset. Not just in the stands.
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 ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis would have been there then, quite the ‘character’. 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. Aberdeen FC directors’ principles.
At the game, who scores for them, but Neale. The atmosphere is just 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 antenna 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 (expecting Rangers goals) 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. At the time, 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. Very unprofessionally, 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, forced out, never picked again. Every game, they’d bring it up, we were their biggest rivals. I’d say also the Glasgow media wouldn’t have enjoyed the Ferguson years. This was payback now Fergie was gone.
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 or performance and the Glasgow media would blame the strutting ‘Anglo-Scot’. The ferocious back peddling they then had to do when he took over at Rangers, to prove their loyalty to Souness, was nothing short of sick, and also kind of funny.
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).
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 was one sunny day at Pittodrie, 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 just as he warmed up, was amazing.
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. Neil Simpson is a legend. Show him the respect he deserves.