It’s been another busy 12 months in the north and north-east Scotland despite some sports being ruled out altogether and others facing major disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We’ve compiled this list of some of the most popular sport stories which have appeared on the Evening Express and Press and Journal websites since January.
Of course, we’ve given plenty of coverage this year to the financial pressures on Scottish football – one of the first sports to restart – as most teams continue to play behind closed doors and without vital gate receipts.
Naturally, stories like these, concerning the future of our well-supported clubs, garnered a significant amount of pageviews.
However, as you’ll see, the list also contains a mix of high achievement, the humorous and the nostalgic to revisit and enjoy.
Covid impact on club finances becomes clear
The story of the year has been the coronavirus pandemic, for everyone, all over the world.
In an early indicator of its consequences for Scottish football, within ten days of the game being shut down in March ahead of the first national lockdown, Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack revealed the Reds were facing a £5 million black hole in their finances.
Of course, since then, the impact of the pandemic has dragged on and the hit to clubs’ balance sheets has only increased. Football has now returned, for the most part without fans, and measures like fresh investment, wage deferrals and fan support through the likes of season ticket sales have helped Aberdeen weather the storm.
However, Covid hasn’t just impacted Aberdeen on a financial level, it’s also been an issue for the football department.
There was the Aberdeen Eight debacle – which saw a group of Dons players visit a city centre bar, with one subsequently testing positive for the virus and three Reds games being postponed – while, more recently, Ross McCrorie’s positive test after Scotland Under-21s duty left the Dons short of the midfielder, as well as Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan, for three games which went ahead.
Scott McKenna moves on to Nottingham Forest, netting Aberdeen a big fee
The Scott McKenna transfer saga which began when the Scotland international first broke into the Dons side, concluded with his move to Nottingham Forest in September.
The £3 million the Reds received went straight to the top of the list of biggest fees Aberdeen have received for players.
Aberdeen bar offers free pint if Dons score from open play against Hamilton
Moving on to more light-hearted Aberdeen stories, one which proved quite popular (likely because it involved free booze) was this one from February.
With the Dons going almost two months without scoring a goal from open play, the marketing whizzes at city centre bar the Foundry made a unique offer to punters ahead of a midweek Premiership clash with Accies.
Curtis Main scored after 15 minutes in a 3-1 win to send the Granite City’s beer drinkers into overdrive.
Finally, a bit of Aberdeen nostalgia
Sometimes looking back is what proved most popular with readers, and so it was with these two pieces of content – one tracing the career trajectories of Aberdeen’s 2009/10 youth squad, and the other drawing attention to 10 foreign Dons imports which may have slipped out of fans’ minds.
Highlander Hendo breaks the football stronghold
As with most sportdesks in Scotland, when we look at our web figures for the year, the most popular articles are usually almost exclusively football stories. This is understandable, given it’s Scotland’s national sport.
However, if any sportsperson from our combined north and north-east of Scotland patch was going to break that stranglehold it was this man – John “The Highlander” Henderson, darts’ man of the people, from Huntly but popular across the UK. The fact the story also involved a magical nine-darter only served to supercharge its audience.
Invergordon strongman Tom Stoltman breaks world record
Another non-football story which has held it’s own this year is another tale of elite achievement – this time from the world of strongman.
Tom Stoltman is a formidable force in the sport, demonstrated by his achievements in the well-known World’s Strongest Man, where he was runner-up in 2020.
However, he also made history in January by setting a new all-time mark in the castle stones event at Britain’s Strongest Man, with the video in the article captured by none other than former World’s Strongest Man, Eddie “The Beast” Hall.
How many holes in one?!?
Our final non-football piece from 2020 to make the list pertains to golf, specifically a Peterhead Golf Club member, named Bob Bowman, who recently recorded his 23rd hole in one.
Bob also admitted he may have landed even more aces playing on his own, but a) couldn’t remember and b) didn’t have anyone to sign his card anyway.
Back to football: Rory McAllister’s reign as King of Balmoor ends
This was a big story for north-east football, when perhaps Scotland’s best-known part-time player and Peterhead skipper at the time, Rory McAllister, decided to leave the club for Cove Rangers – another of our league sides.
North Caledonian League side makes it to big time
Former amateur outfit Loch Ness FC got a huge boost ahead of making the step up to the North Caledonian League, when their striking new kits were the subject of national news coverage, namely a segment on BBC Breakfast..
Having also gone down a treat on Twitter and Facebook, orders started flooding in for the home and away tops, giving Loch Ness a timely financial boost in a year where sponsorship had dried up due to the pandemic.
Caley Thistle’s automatic cameras struggle to cope with bald-headed official
This story was very popular on the P&J Sport Twitter feed, reflecting the at-times hilarious, mad world that is Scottish football.
With clubs quickly trying to get to grips with streaming behind-closed-doors fixtures to fans, Caley Thistle’s automatic cameras struggled to distinguish between the match ball and a linesman’s bald head.