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.

Neil Simpson knew Aberdeen were destined for greatness in Gothenburg

Absence of Sir Alex Ferguson's nervous cough had Dons convinced they would beat Real Madrid in European Cup Winners' Cup final.

Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson. Image: DC Thomson
Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson. Image: DC Thomson

It was the biggest game of his career but facing Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final was a moment of calm for Neil Simpson and his fellow Gothenburg Greats.

The midfielder was just 21-years-old when he took to the field of the Ullevi Stadium in Sweden on May 11, 1983.

The Dons were in their first European final and about to face one of the most famous names in club football in the Spanish giants.

Yet, as Simpson recalls, that historic night was just like any other for Sir Alex Ferguson’s players.

When asked why everyone was so relaxed, Simpson believes the absence of his manager’s famous nervous tick was all he and his team-mates needed.

He said: “It was like any other game for us as Fergie kept our feet on the ground.

“Archie Knox and Fergie were relaxed which made us relaxed.

“Fergie had a nervous cough and it just wasn’t there at all for this game.

“When he speaks you are at attention but he managed us and prepared us really well in terms of what to expect against these players.

“We went out on that pitch knowing what we needed to do to win the game before a ball had been kicked.”

Big-game experience was crucial

Aberdeen had a mixture of youth and experience in their ranks from youngsters such as Simpson, Neale Cooper and Eric Black to seasoned campaigners like Willie Miller, Gordon Strachan and Peter Weir.

But what all the players shared was big-match experience.

Peter Weir is congratulated by other members of the Dons team included in Scotland’s full and under-21 squads for their games against Switzerland in 1983. The others are, from left – John Hewitt, Eric Black, Willie Miller, Neil Simpson, Alex McLeish, Jim Leighton, Bryan Gunn, Gordon Strachan and Neale Cooper.

Simpson, the pathways manager at the Dons, said: “I’ve said a number of times my international experience, while not at the top level, was quite vast.

“I played for the under-18s and under-21s against guys like Ruud Gullit and Lothar Matthaus and also Franco Baresi and Giuseppe Bergomi.

“We beat Italy at Pittodrie to reach the semi-final of the European Championship.

“I also played a lot of international games with the club and that experience of going abroad and how you prepare stood me in good stead.

“Then you add in Miller, McLeish, Strachan and Leighton who were regular internationals as well as McGhee and Weir who had also represented Scotland and the experience we had was incredible.

“There was a famous photo taken of all the Scotland players from youth level right through to Drew Jarvie, and it is one I love.

“Seeing everyone in that photo is brilliant and it’s something I’m striving to see repeated in my role at the club today.”

Ferguson shielded players from cup final fever

In the days leading up to the final Aberdeen had been a ball of excitement.

By air and sea, spectators were travelling to the game and it was the only topic of conversation both at home and in Gothenburg.

Ferguson kept his squad shielded away from the cup final mania which had engulfed the club.

Simpson believes ignoring the noise around the game was a pivotal call by the manager.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Simpson said: “We flew out on the Monday which with hindsight was a clever move.

“We were taken away from the hustle and bustle of Aberdeen where the game was the only thing people were talking about in the city.

“As everyone knows Fars Hatt was the hotel where we stayed and it was a good 15 to 20 miles out of Gothenburg away so again we were not in that bubble with the fans.

“Fergie kept us well away from it.

“We trained at Ullevi Stadium the day before the game and as we were coming off the pitch Real Madrid were coming on.

“I remember Fergie and Archie saying ‘when you come off don’t be looking around to see what they are doing as that is a sign you think you’re not as good as them.’

“I can remember walking in as if I wasn’t even interested in them.”

Simpson relishing chance to reunite with former team-mates

You can call it confidence or arrogance but there is little doubt it worked as the Dons beat Madrid 2-1 to win their first European trophy.

John Hewitt’s headed winner in extra-time ensured the class of 1983 etched their name not just in Aberdeen’s history but that of Scottish football too.

Those same heroes will this week be honoured on the 40th anniversary of the club’s greatest triumph.

Saluting their fans are (left to right) Neale Cooper, John Hewitt, John McMaster, Neil Simpson, Gordon Strachan, Peter Weir, Jim Leighton and Mark McGhee after the 3-2 win against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final.  Image: DC Thomson

For Simpson, the chance to catch-up with his old friends and team-mates, is an opportunity he is relishing.

He said:  “We don’t get the chance to get together that often these days so we’re all looking forward to the anniversary.

“We’ve got a whatsapp group where the banter is brilliant and everyone has a good laugh.

“But we’re all spread out these days and some of us are still involved in football so it’s not easy.

“Our plan is to get together next year as a group at some point away from any dinners.

“We are a special group and we have a great laugh with each other.

“It’s great to sit and speak about old times together. Well, unless Stuart Kennedy starts.

“If he opens his mouth we know it is Stuart speaking about old times and we don’t get a word in.

“But seriously, I could listen to Stuart all day, his stories are great.”