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Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack reveals he missed his flight home after Gothenburg celebrations

Dons chief says European Cup Winners' Cup success should not be a "millstone around our necks".

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack missed his flight home from Gothenburg after celebrating the Dons’ European Cup Winners’ Cup success.

Cormack, who was 24 at the time, went to Sweden with a group of friends in the hope of witnessing the Dons stun the mighty Real Madrid.

When the dream turned into reality, the Dons supporters danced and partied through the night.

But Cormack was left fearing he would be stranded in Gothenburg when he slept in and missed his flight home before a well-known Aberdeen businessman managed to help get him onto another plane back to the Granite City.

The Dons chairman recalled: “We didn’t get much sleep after the game – the town centre was absolutely packed.

“We didn’t put alarm clocks on and we missed our flight home.

“When we got to the airport they were just piling people on planes to Aberdeen.

“A well-known businessman from the city – who was Rod Stewart’s best man – Ricky Simpson helped me out. I knew Ricky and I told him I’d missed my flight after sleeping in.

“He told me everyone was just piling on to planes. He said I was with his group and managed to get me on a flight home.

“I ended up on this Dan-Air plane and the captain said: ‘Welcome to this flight to Manchester’, which obviously had me panicking and thinking I was heading for England.

“Thankfully it was the pilot who was wrong and the flight was actually destined for Aberdeen.

“I was certainly a bit anxious until we landed in the right place.

“When we landed in Aberdeen, we went straight to the stadium.

“We waited for hours to see the team arrive back at the stadium.

“It was a dry, nice day and fantastic memories.”

‘Surprised the game was on’

While his journey home from Gothenburg was eventful, Cormack said the build-up before the match was totally surreal as thousands of Dons fans descended on the Swedish city.

He said: “I was there with five of my pals. We flew out about two days before and it was a surreal experience.

“It was pouring of rain most of the time.

“The centre of Gothenburg was taken over by the Aberdeen fans. You didn’t really see any Real Madrid fans until the game.

“It was a beautiful city and I have been back. I went back when we played Hacken in 2021 and Neil Simpson was with us.

“We did the tour of the Ullevi Stadium and it brought back plenty of those memories.

“I just remember how everyone was feeling before the game. We were playing Real Madrid in a European final so, as you can imagine, there was a lot of excitement among the support.”

Aberdeen walk onto the pitch ahead of the European Cup-Winners Cup. final against Real Madrid. Image: Aberdeen Journals.
Aberdeen walk on to the pitch ahead of the European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Real Madrid. Image: Aberdeen Journals.

But Cormack was fearing the big match was going to be called off following the incessant rain in Gothenburg ahead of kick-off.

He said: “I was amazed the game was on.

“They had protected the pitch and I think they only took the tarpaulin off the pitch as the game started.

“We got the early goal through Eric Black and you had 17,000 Aberdeen fans going crazy.

“I remember some of the banners the Aberdeen fans had.

“One of the tamer ones that I remember said ‘Gordon Strachan gives out more Majestic passes than Dick Donald’, as he owned the Majestic Cinema at the time.

“The game went on and there was the pass-back from big Alex (McLeish) to Jim (Leighton) which resulted in the penalty.

“Real Madrid had some real stars in that team – Santillana, Uli Stielike from Germany, Juanito, John Metgod from Holland. They had some top players, as you would expect for Real Madrid.

The Gordon Strachan 'majestic' sign was one of the tamer banners that Dave Cormack saw at the stadium. Image: Aberdeen Journals.
One of the tamer banners that Dave Cormack saw at the stadium. Image: Aberdeen Journals.

“In extra time, the build-up and McGhee’s cross for the winning goal was just phenomenal. We went mental.

“Then Real Madrid had that free-kick in the last kick of the game.

“From the angle I was at – I was certain it was going to be a goal.

“It was a mighty feeling of relief when it didn’t go in.”

Stepping stones to greatness

While Gothenburg proved to be the pinnacle for Aberdeen under Sir Alex Ferguson, Cormack felt there was a sense that something special was brewing at Pittodrie for a couple of years before the European success.

He said: “We had building up to it for a few years. We had the games against Liverpool in the 1980-81 season (in the European Cup).

“It was a narrow (1-0) defeat at Pittodrie and then we lost by a few down there.

“The next season we knocked out Ipswich Town (out of the Uefa Cup).

“We were learning over those years.

“We almost took it for granted that this would never end.

“Sir Alex didn’t have it all his own way for a couple of seasons.

“But there was an appreciation of his drive and his coaching ability. He brought the right people around him, like Archie Knox.

“That had a big impact.

“It wasn’t an overnight success. A lot went into achieving what happened in Gothenburg.

Legendary Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson in Gothenburg. Image: SNS

“You saw when Sir Alex left for Manchester United, it took him time to get it right there too.

“I was 24 at the time of Gothenburg.

“I grew up as a Dons fan and my idol was Joe Harper.

“He just missed out on that period, but I would have loved Joe and (long-serving goalkeeper) Bobby Clark to have been involved in that.”

Dave Cormack says Gothenburg should be an inspiration

Cormack says it would be almost impossible for a club of Aberdeen’s stature managing to defy the odds and conquer Europe nowadays.

He said: “Fast forward 40 years, in a lot of ways football is a lot less competitive today because of the Bosman ruling and the TV money available to the clubs in the big five leagues.

“Back then, players stayed most of their years at the same club unless the clubs wanted to get rid of them.

“It is clear that the drive is there from the big clubs in Europe – in my eyes selfishly – to keep it all for themselves.

“What people are missing and why the European Super League plans got a real kicking was because there is a real demand for top community football.”

Aberdeen’s success in the 1980s may have made the more challenging periods since Ferguson’s departure tougher to take, but Cormack hopes the achievements of that golden period, particularly 1983, can provide motivation for current Dons teams.

He said: “In today’s game – how much would Gordon Strachan, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish be worth in the transfer market?

“Football has changed, but the success that Alex Ferguson and the team had should be seen as an inspiration, not a millstone around our necks.”