Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Not even a broken nose would stop Neil Simpson’s quest for Gothenburg glory with Aberdeen

A flailing Real Madrid elbow left Simpson seeing stars but the Dons midfielder had the last laugh against Real Madrid.

Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson at Pittodrie.
Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson at Pittodrie.

Few suffered more for the Aberdeen cause in Gothenburg than Neil Simpson.

With the European Cup Winners’ Cup final delicately poised at 1-1 early in the second half, Real Madrid defender Paco Bonet tried to bring Simpson’s big night to a premature end by the foulest of means.

Bonet set off on a run into the Aberdeen half with Simpson in hot pursuit.

A crunching elbow to the face, missed by the officials, left the Dons midfielder crumpled on the Ullevi pitch, in pain and fearing the worst.

He said: “Bonet caught me right at the start of the second half.

“I was running alongside him and he caught me square on the nose.

“I saw stars straight away, I was dazed and I was down on the pitch for a good 30 seconds before I managed to get back to my feet.

“The cartilage in the middle of my nose was knocked right over to the extent I couldn’t breathe out my other nostril for the whole year until I got my nose fixed the following the summer.

“If you watch the footage, you see me down on the pitch at the start of the second half.

“He was sneaky in giving me the elbow as he went past – the bandit.”

Simpson thrilled to have the last laugh

One suspects Simpson had a stronger word in mind at the time, but he recovered and completed not just the 90 minutes but the full 120 minutes of the game as the Dons ran out 2-1 winners.

Real’s Ricardo Gallego and Aberdeen’s Neil Simpson in action at the Ullevi Stadium. Image: Shutterstock

He had not forgotten his earlier run-in with the Spaniard, however.

Simpson said: “After the game I motioned to him with my elbow, and he just laughed.

“But I wasn’t bothered by then as I had the medal in front of me.”

Rest in the build-up to Real Madrid clash was crucial for Neil Simpson

The games came thick and fast for the Dons in the run-up to May 11, but Simpson was deliberately left on the sidelines.

The Aberdeen midfielder was rested by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the build-up to the final.

Ferguson needed Simpson’s drive in midfield against the Spaniards and could see the tank was running empty in one of the key midfield engines.

Legendary Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson in Gothenburg. Image: SNS

As far as the manager was concerned, the need to recharge the batteries ahead of the biggest game in the club’s history took precedence.

Simpson remains grateful today for the manager’s decision to take him out of the team.

He said: “I remember playing at Dundee around three weeks before the game and I was so knackered. It was a warm day and I had no energy whatsoever.

“Fergie said to me he had seen more life in a snail than he saw in me and he called me into his office on the Monday.

“He said: ‘you’re looking jaded, but 100% you are going to start against Real Madrid – so I don’t want you to do anything between now and that game.

‘We were the extra-time experts’

“I missed Hibs away and Kilmarnock at home as I was virtually resting up at home.

“I wasn’t nervous at all as he was a man of his word and it was great to be able to get ready mentally for the game.

“I remember the Hibs game in particular, as he didn’t even want me to travel to Easter Road with the team. I listened to it on the radio lying on my settee at home.

“It did the trick as I had so much energy in the game. We were fit as a squad, and when it went to extra-time, we knew we’d have the energy.

“But for me, I ran as much in the 120th minute as I did in the first.”

Neil Simpson, left, looks on as captain Willie Miller lifts the Cup Winners' Cup in Gothenburg. Image: Shutterstock
Neil Simpson, left, looks on as captain Willie Miller lifts the Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg. Image: Shutterstock

A common theme among the Dons players 40 years later is the shared annoyance Madrid hung on for an additional 30 minutes.

Simpson is no different, but he points to the fact Aberdeen were well versed in going the extra mile for the cause.

Aberdeen’s tenacity domestically, not to mention the fact they were serial campaigners when it came to etching out victories on the big stage for silverware, ensured there was little doubt within the dressing room that the cup was coming back to the Granite City.

Simpson said: “We were annoyed it even went to extra-time. With the chances we created and the pressure we had on them in the second half, the game should have been finished in the 90 minutes.

“We started well, got the goal, gave away the penalty which they scored, then there was a lull in the game until half-time.

“But we regrouped at the break and the chances we had to win it in normal time were good ones.

“But we knew we were the experts in extra-time and knew how to handle it as we were fit and had matchwinners in the team.

“In the back of my head, I was thinking: ‘Is it going to be our day?’ As they would have been happy to take their chances with penalties the way the game was going, but thankfully we managed to do it.”

Cup glory but celebrations cut short with more silverware at stake

The Dons with Doug Rougvie, left, and Neil Simpson leave Pittodrie Stadium on their way to Gothenburg in 1983.

Simpson, was just 21 when he collected his winner’s medal before joining his team-mates and club officials back at the now famous hotel, Fars Hatt, on the outskirts of Gothenburg.

But the midfielder, who still works with the Dons today as pathways manager, recalls the celebrations were subdued.

With a league match looming three days later and the small matter of a Scottish Cup final 10 days later, Aberdeen’s quest for silverware for the season was far from over.

He said: “It was a formal dinner we had after the game back at the hotel.

“We had a meal then a breakout where beers and champagne were on the go, but we didn’t go daft.

“We still had domestic games to play and we were coming back the next day.”

As the players prepare to reconvene in the Granite City to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their greatest triumph, Simpson believes Aberdeen’s remarkable success came down to three attributes – no shortage of flair, peak fitness and an unparalleled thirst for success.

He said: “We had a great work ethic and great skilful players in the team who were capable of creating something.

“We were a group of players who never knew when we were beaten.”