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Sir Alex Ferguson’s lasting legacy as former Dons boss unveils his statue at Aberdeen FC

It was the day when Aberdeen paid tribute to their greatest manager.

Gothenburg Greats, former players, colleagues, directors and fans gathered as Sir Alex Ferguson took centre stage one more time at Pittodrie.

The statue of his image celebrating his first league championship win in 1980 was fitting.

It epitomised the moment which started a halcyon period the likes of which will likely never be repeated.

But it also set Ferguson on a path towards becoming arguably the greatest manager in world football.

For those too young to remember all the exploits of the Ferguson era at Pittodrie, a video package featuring the highlights of his career was broadcast to those in attendance and watching at home.

But in all honesty, even if they did not live through it, any Dons fan knows the period from 1978 to 1986 like the back of their hand.

Three league titles, four Scottish Cup titles, the League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Super Cup.

Allan McKimmie, AFC Heritage Trust chairman, and sculptor Andy Edwards spoke about the creation of the statue and the intention to relocate it to the club’s new stadium when the time comes for the Dons to leave Pittodrie.

For Edwards, the decision to sculpt the figure showing the expression of joy from Ferguson following the league title win against Hibernian at Easter Road 42 years ago was an easy decision to make.

Gothenburg Greats provided dressing room inside – and humour

While McKimmie and Edwards provided the background, three of the Gothenburg Greats – captain Willie Miller, Gordon Strachan and Neil Simpson, provided the light-hearted entertainment as they reminisced about their former boss.

Miller said: “The biggest impression I had was that he wanted to overcome the Old Firm and that was right up my street. That was always an ambition of mine.

“That was really implanted in me by Bobby Clark. That was always one of his dreams and I was delighted that he achieved that dream.

“That was my impression of Sir Alex, that he wanted to overcome the Old Firm, start to win trophies and boy did we do that.

“There was a lot of hard work put in before that title win (in 1980).

“There were disappointments along the road as well. But I think lifting the title was the big trophy to win.

“That gave us the confidence and the belief that we could do something special.

“To actually go on and do what we did in 1983, lifting the Cup Winners’ Cup and really beating the Germans, because it was the top league in Europe, then anything was possible.

“It was probably the best atmosphere that we’ve experienced here at Pittodrie.

“To then have the belief to go and take on Real Madrid in the final, it’s quite incredible when that story is told. ‘You only beat Bayern Munich and then Real Madrid in the final’, you can’t really believe that can you?

“But it did happen and then of course we went on to lift the Scottish Cup the same year.

“Me and Big Alex actually won that trophy on our own. It was a great tactical move by the gaffer. We actually went down Union Street in a tandem.”

Strachan still worried about the famous Ferguson hairdryer treatment

Strachan, in playful mood, upped the ante.

He said: “Everywhere I go in football over the last 45 years everyone has wanted to know what it was like to be managed by Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Most footballers in the world would love to be in a dressing room with Sir Alex Ferguson just once and see how it works.

“We were fortunate we had it 300 or 400 times — or maybe it was unfortunate on many occasions for me.

“In fact, I think that statue is going to say: ‘Strachan, you’ve got 10 minutes and you’re off.’

“I feel so privileged to be there in that dressing room. The energy was unbelievable. We had guys like Willie (Miller) Stewart (Kennedy) all these guys that were in there. But when Sir Alex walked in: ‘wow.’.

“It was nuclear. We could have powered Aberdeen with the energy coming out of that dressing room. It was a wonderful time for us and it made us realise how important it was to be good teammates.”

Simpson’s pride at what Aberdeen achieved

For Simpson, who remains part of the backroom staff  at the club today, there was a sense of pride at being present for the unveiling of the statue.

He said: “Like Gordon said it was an amazing dressing room to be part of.

“There were characters but they all had characters, every one.

“Led by Willie being a driving force and then Sir Alex pushing everyone on, game after game after game you were on the park and you had to win.

“That’s something I got used to.

“In terms of mentality and everything – he convinced everyone they were a winner. He convinced everyone. He convinced a quiet loon from Newmachar he could run through brick walls.

“It was an honour to be part of this team and to have been under Sir Alex Ferguson.”

Simpson added: “This is a fantastic tribute for the greatest manager there has ever been.

“Myself and all the players who played under him owe a big gratitude for giving us opportunities, seeing things and as Gordon said the professionalism, the real desire to win which is all we want to do in football – no-one is interested in losers.

“It really is just a huge privilege to be part of this big understanding of what Aberdeen have done.”

Ferguson takes centre stage

Sir Alex Ferguson at Pittodrie, the home of Aberdeen FC for the unveiling of his statue.<br />Picture by Kami Thomson / DCT Media

The Gothenburg Greats provided the backdrop but there was no doubting who was the main event – and Sir Alex did not disappoint.

He said: “What I achieved at Aberdeen was almost a miracle. But you know something? We battered them. We absolutely battered them.

“When I came here it was the right place. I had a great chairman and board. They supported me 100%. No manager can have a better start to their career than I had.

“We won the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a staff of four. Today they talk about 40 staff – times change.

“It was a pleasure for me to work with these players. When you try to put a light switch together if you don’t have the right materials it’s not going to work.

“I had the right materials. All they needed was to show the desire.

“Some people wanted to go to the moon for their holidays, some want to go to the local park. These boys wanted to go to the moon and be better and better.

“Other clubs want to win trophies but you want to win it more than them. The desire to win is what makes the difference.”

Before unveiling the statue in his honour Ferguson also paid tribute to his late chairman Dick Donald.

He said: “There was only one way I could have left and that was for Manchester United. Dick Donald told me only one club I should leave for and that’s Manchester United. It was best advice I ever got.

“I’m so proud of this statue and thank you for coming out today. It has been wonderful.”

With the unveiling, Ferguson took his applause before departing stage right. However, thanks to the work of the club and the sculptor his presence will now remain forever.