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A dream became reality for Aberdeen goalkeeper Bobby Clark in the 1976 League Cup final

A prediction turned into a premonition for the Dons keeper as his pre-match pep-talk became reality at Hampden.

Davie Robb celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Aberdeen against Celtic in the 1976 League Cup final.
Davie Robb celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Aberdeen against Celtic in the 1976 League Cup final.

Bobby Clark helped make a dream become reality when Aberdeen won the League Cup in 1976.

But the legendary former Dons goalkeeper remains unsure whether it was by accident or design.

There is an urban legend involving Clark and the Dons’ 2-1 triumph over Celtic at Hampden.

Clark was the man who told Davie Robb he had dreamt his midfield team-mate would come off the bench to score in the final.

As luck would have it, or perhaps fate, Clark’s prediction was transformed into a premonition by the time it was all said and done as Robb did indeed come off the bench to win the cup for Ally MacLeod’s team.

Even 47 years later, Clark struggles to separate fact from fiction.

He said: “I’m still not sure. Davie was my room-mate for away trips and we knew he was going to be the sub that day.

“I think more than anything else I told him to get him excited about coming on.

“I’m not sure if it was one of my early coaching tips but I told him I had dreamt he was going to come on and score and I remember giving him the thumbs up when he came on.

“Little did I know he would but I’ll take credit for it.

“Davie was a handful and nobody ever liked playing against Davie Robb. He wasn’t an out and out goalscorer but he seemed to have a knack for scoring important ones.

“Jocky Scott’s ball came in and I seem to recall two players having a swipe at the ball and missing before it got to Davie who scored past Peter Latchford.

“Whether I did dream it or not I can’t remember but I did tell him he’d score and he certainly made a difference.”

Ally MacLeod guided the Dons from a relegation dogfight to cup glory

Former Aberdeen manager Ally MacLeod. Image: Shutterstock

For the Dons, the 1976-77 season was a significant reversal of the previous campaign where they had needed a 3-0 win at Hibernian on the final day of the season to ensure their survival in the Premier Division.

New manager Ally MacLeod, who took charge in November 1975, had arrived at Pittodrie full of enthusiasm – and was adept at making predictions of his own after claiming he would bring silverware to the club in his first year in charge.

A relegation dogfight was far from the agenda but thanks to some shrew acquisitions in the summer of 1976 including the signings of Joe Harper and Stuart Kennedy, MacLeod was determined to start afresh.

Clark had missed Aberdeen’s early steps on the road to Hampden after spending the summer of 1976 in the United States.

He returned midway through the group stage of the tournament where he found the route to Hampden to be a hugely testing one.

Clark said: “I missed a good bit of the previous season as I had to have knee surgery. Jim Forrest was coaching in San Antonio and asked me if I’d like to go over.

“As I’d missed a big chunk of the season Ally let me go and play myself fit over the summer in San Antonio and the team had played a few League Cup section games as I was in the States finishing the season with them.

“I came back on a Sunday and played on the Tuesday in the 4-0 game against St Mirren.

“The League Cup was very different in those days. You played in a four-team section home and away then in a two-legged quarter-final.

“We faced Alex Ferguson’s St Mirren in the group while going to places like Ayr United and Kilmarnock were always tough.

“We got through and faced a really hard quarter-final against Alex Smith’s Stirling Albion. We were lucky to get through in the end. We won 1-0 at home and the second leg was brutal.

“There was a gale blowing and it was absolutely soaking at the old Annfield.

“It was nervewracking stuff and we lost 1-0 which meant a replay was needed at Dens Park where Jocky Scott and Joe Smith got the goals.”

Scott takes centre stage in the semi-final

Jocky Scott celebrates his second goal against Rangers in the semi-final. Image: DC Thomson

The degree of difficulty increased with each passing round and having reached the semi-final MacLeod’s Dons found Rangers standing in their way.

It was a huge challenge but a Jocky Scott hat-trick in a famous 5-1 victory ensured the Dons were in the final.

Clark said: “We got off to a great start in the semi-final and Jocky Scott had a fantastic game that night.

“The whole team played well but it wasn’t really until the second half that we put it to bed.

“We were 2-0 up early thanks to a double from Jocky but Rangers pulled a goal back.

“It was 2-1 for a while but we managed to score twice in a couple of minutes after the hour mark through Joe Harper and Drew Jarvie before Jocky completed his hat-trick.

“To beat Rangers at Hampden 5-1 was special but the job wasn’t done as we to face Celtic in the final and they had a decent team at that time.”

Clark almost missed the final

Aberdeen goalkeeper Bobby Clark in action

Aberdeen were Hampden-bound but Clark’s involvement in the final almost failed to materialise after he suffered an injury the week before the cup final.

The goalkeeper should not have played at Hampden but Clark was intent on defying the medical experts to take his place against Jock Stein’s Hoops.

He said: “We played Dundee United the week before in a league game and then we had to play Motherwell in the midweek before the game.

“I took a kick to my hand against United when we were both going for the ball and I had to go for an X-ray at the hospital at Woolmanhill. There was a chip out of the bone of my thumb and the medical staff wanted to put it in plaster.

“I said ‘you can’t do that I’ve got a cup final next week.’

“Ally came back in for the midweek game against Motherwell but I was put back in the team for the final.

“Ally MacLeod was always up to tricks. He had decided to tell everyone I had hurt my knee and should wear a tubigrip bandage on my knee so as not to let Celtic know I had a sore hand.”

‘We had a good team’

Cup final hero Davie Robb holds aloft the League Cup back at Pittodrie.

Clark’s desire was matched by that of his team-mates as they dug deep to upset the Hoops and win the cup.

The goalkeeper’s manager was ecstatic, and his confidence in his side was evident in the post-match press conference.

Clark said: “I always remember Ally after we won the cup telling everyone ‘we’re the only team that can now win the treble.’ He came up with some great stuff.

“We had a good team and I think our fantastic performance in the semi-final was the making of us.

“We had Dom Sullivan and Arthur ‘Bumper’ Graham in the wide areas who could run while Ally loved Joe Smith during that period. You add Jocky, Jarvie and wee Joe and it’s a good team there.

“There wasn’t many better full backs than Stuart Kennedy while Billy Williamson was so good then too.

“With Willie Garner and Willie Miller, who was captain at just 21, in there too we were really strong.

“I think of that final and it was the day Willie Miller came of age at 21. He was superb.”

Now it is the turn of the class of 2023 to emulate what the Dons side of 1976 achieved.

Rangers stand between Barry Robson’s side and cup glory at the National Stadium on Sunday and while it has been a challenging season so far for the Dons Clark remains optimistic.

He said: “I always used to say ‘winning is a habit and losing is a habit’ and the hardest thing to break is a habit regardless of whether it is winning or losing.

“But Aberdeen have held their own against Rangers this season. I know winning the League Cup would give everyone at the club a boost and it’s far from impossible.”