Former Aberdeen defender Brian Irvine knows exactly what will be going through the minds of the Dons players when he takes his seat at Pittodrie to watch Derek McInnes’s side take on Celtic.
A point for the Hoops will secure an eighth top-flight title in a row for the Premiership holders and the scenario of a title celebration taking place at Pittodrie is one the Dons are desperate to avoid.
Irvine played an integral role the last time the Dons had to watch the celebrations of the away team take centre stage as his goal was not enough to deny Rangers the point they needed en route to clinching the title in the Granite City on May 2, 1987 in a 1-1 draw.
For Irvine in particular, it was certainly an eventful afternoon.
He said: “Ian Porterfield, the manager, called me into his office during the week of the game. I had played midfield a few times for the reserves but never for the first team.
“He told me I was going to start the game against Rangers in midfield and that I would be marking Graeme Souness, the player-manager and one of the biggest names in Scottish football.
“My first thought was ‘oh no’ but as the week went on I was really looking forward to the challenge. I’m not sure he would have felt the same way when he saw me man marking him though. He must have thought ‘who’s this big farmer boy following me?’
“The game had barely started, I think about four minutes in, when he caught me on the knee and earned a yellow card. By the 20th minute he did it again and was sent off. My first thought was ‘what do I do now?’ as my whole preparation had been centred on trying to keep his impact on the game to a minimum. I ended up marking Dave McPherson in midfield after Souness went off.
“Even with 10 men Rangers managed to score through Terry Butcher’s header but I equalised before half-time. The second half petered out really but the point was enough for Rangers to win the title.”
While the former Don had an unforgettable afternoon it seems not everyone in the Irvine household found it so engrossing.
He said: “Rangers fans were everywhere throughout Pittodrie and many of them spilled on to the pitch at the full-time whistle to celebrate their title win. The only feeling I had was wanting to get off the pitch as quickly as possible as it felt horrible watching another team celebrate winning the league.
“My wife didn’t go to many games when I played but she was at Pittodrie that day. I asked her afterwards what she thought of it all and she told me she found it boring. The only other games she went to were the Scottish Cup final in 1990 when I scored the winning penalty and my debut for Scotland. At least they were all memorable.”
Irvine and his team-mates, led by captain Willie Miller on his 32nd birthday on this day 32 years ago, came up short in their attempt to prevent Rangers clinching the league championship at Pittodrie but the Ross County coach hopes the class of 2019 can get the win they need for their own ambitions this weekend.
The 53-year-old said: “Knowing what will happen if you don’t win does give you more motivation and I’ve no doubt Aberdeen will be determined to prevent a title celebration on Saturday.
“Celtic are such a good side and will have their own motivation to win the title and they will be confident after their victory against the Dons in the League Cup final and the recent Scottish Cup semi-final.
“But Aberdeen, even with all the players they have out, will remember their 1-0 win at Celtic Park on the last day of last season and other than the last game every match has been really tight between the teams so far this season.
“With three games to go, the finish line is in sight for Aberdeen. There are no other distractions, they just want to get the job done and secure third place. Getting that European spot is where their focus should be.”