Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson says a celebration of Aberdeen’s greatest win 37 years on “was like being back in the dressing room”.
The Dons icon, 58, joined former team-mates including Willie Miller, Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan, John Hewitt, Eric Black and Mark McGhee, as well as ex-gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson, for a Zoom call – 37 years after lifting the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.
The pandemic necessitated a different kind of reunion, but even technical issues couldn’t stop a well-attended meeting to mark the 2-1 win over Real Madrid.
Simpson, speaking on this week’s episode of the Northern Goal podcast, said: “We’d organised to do the Zoom call on Monday, but I had no idea Fergie would be on the call as well.
“Archie (Knox) had some technical problems, so he didn’t get on the call until about half an hour later, but having everyone there was like being back in the dressing room again. It was magic.”
Ex-midfielder Simpson, who played more than 300 times for the Dons in the 1980s and is now the head of Aberdeen’s youth academy, spoke to Northern Goal for nearly an hour, reflecting on his career.
Among subjects covered are his early days in the game, playing in Newmachar, as well as signing for Aberdeen and meeting “ultimate heroes” Joe Harper and Bobby Clark for the first time.
Simpson, who was thrust into the Dons first-team at 16 by gaffer Ferguson and won eight trophies under him, also reflected on his debut and Fergie’s managerial magic.
He said: “I started playing for the reserves in 1978 and played at Stirling University.
“We won 8-1 and I scored a perfect hat-trick – left foot, right foot and a header. I remember him (Fergie) coming up after the game and saying ‘well done son, great performance’. I was really chuffed.
“The following week, on the Monday, I got called into his office and he said ‘you’re going to be on the bench against Hamilton in the League Cup on Wednesday’.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was three, four months into my reserves career and I was getting an opportunity in the first team, my local team.
“I used to dream about coming on for Aberdeen and setting Joe Harper up for a goal. I came on as a sub in the last 20 minutes against Hamilton, we won 7-1 and I set Joe up for one of his goals.”
Simpson says it was Fergie’s acute understanding of when to push and when to put an arm round his players, that ensured he was fit for the greatest night of his career in Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium.
He said: “I came down with a bug after the away game against Waterschei (Cup-Winners’ Cup semi-final). After the game I went straight to bed, then I was on bench against Celtic at the weekend.
“We were two weeks away from the Cup-Winners’ Cup final and on the Monday he took me into the office and said ‘you’re looking a bit sluggish. I’ll tell you now, you’re going to start against Real Madrid, so I want you to go away and rest for a week’.
“It was the best thing he ever did. I was feeling so good when I came back.”
Simpson tells of his regrets at not retaining the Cup-Winners’ Cup, who his best team-mate was, the post-Fergie era with Ian Porterfield, Alex Smith and Jocky Scott, and his days at Newcastle United, Motherwell and Cove Rangers.
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