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.

How ‘eccentric and unique’ Ebbe Skovdahl brought bold vision to Aberdeen

Brothers Darren and Derek Young remember playing under Aberdeen's first foreign manager Ebbe Skovdahl

Ebbe Skovdahl unveiled as new Aberdeen manager.
Ebbe Skovdahl unveiled as new Aberdeen manager.

Legendary Aberdeen manager Ebbe Skovdahl was so ahead of the curve many of his groundbreaking tactics were initially confusing to the Dons when he arrived at Pittodrie in the summer of 1999.

Fast forward 25 years and former Reds midfielder Derek Young, now a Dons under-16 coach, finds himself training rising talent with methods he picked up from the Dane.

Derek played under Skovdahl alongside his brother Darren, who was made club captain at just 21-years-old by the former Brondby boss.

In his debut season Skovdahl finished bottom of the league and only avoided relegation because Falkirk’s stadium was not fit for the top flight.

However in that season fans’ favourite Skovdahl led Aberdeen to the League Cup and Scottish Cup finals – losing both.

Skovdahl was renowned for his memorable comments, to the extent the players carved them into a table at Pittodrie for posterity – including gems such as “Darren Mackie you are as fast as a bag of cheetahs.”

After a battle with cancer Skovdahl sadly passed away on October 23, 2020 at the age of 75.

The Young brothers remember their boss who brought ideas way ahead of their time.

Aberdeen manger Ebbe Skovdahl at his unveiling at Pittodrie in 1999. Image: DC Thomson

Derek said: “It was something different for everyone as we had not played under a foreign coach before.

“Ebbe came in with his own ideas and brought things we had never seen or done  in training before.

“A lot of things that didn’t make sense to us at the time – but in Ebbe’s head they made sense.

“Now that I’m in the coaching side I look back on a lot of things I used to do under Ebbe that he brought in, and I do it now.

“It was new to us but now we are further ahead to what he brought across from Brondby.

“And it is only now I can look back and see what he was trying to do.

“At the time I was maybe thinking ‘why are we doing that?’

“Fast forward all those years and I’m probably trying to implement what Ebbe did into training sessions I’m doing as a coach now.

“He was maybe ahead of the time- he was ahead of something.”

Ebbe Skovdahl’s first press conference as Aberdeen manager, alongside chairman Stewart Milne. Image: Aberdeen Journals.

‘Ebbe was very different and quite eccentric’

Skovdahl’s tactics and football philosophy took time to gel within the Aberdeen squad.

His time at Pittodrie suffered a disastrous start when the Dons lost their opening seven league games.

In the opening nine league matches the Reds secured just one point.

A win finally arrived with a crazy 6-5 win against Motherwell.

Aberdeen manager Ebbe Skovdahl cheers on the fans at his first game in charge. Image: PA.

Darren said: “Ebbe was very different and eccentric.

“The formations you see now – 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 – Ebbe is the first guy I knew who wanted to use those systems when he arrived.

“Looking back it was something we either just couldn’t get our head around or he wasn’t able to get across what he wanted us to do.

“We lost our first six games without scoring a goal and our first win was the mad 6-5 game at Motherwell.

“I remember in his second season I went to speak to Gardner Spiers about it and asked if we could go back to 4-4-2 as we were not picking it up.

“We changed the formation and started scoring goals and  winning but Ebbe always wanted to change back after four or five games.

“We didn’t have analysis like you have today and nobody had played in the way he wanted or really had the understanding.

“Looking back I can’t remember being shown what to do.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way.

“He was used to something different from what we knew and it just didn’t work.

“Some of his training was good, other moments were quite eccentric.”

Ebbe Skovdahl at Pittodrie. Image; Aberdeen Journals

‘Daz Mackie, you are quicker than a bag of cheetahs’

Skovdahl had taken his Brondby side to Pittodrie and won 2-0 in the UEFA Cup in 1996.

Brondby progressed to the next round after drawing the return leg 0-0 in Denmark.

Skovdahl obviously made an impression as three years later chairman Stewart Milne moved to make him Aberdeen’s first foreign manager.

Ebbe Skovdahl with Hicham Zerouali.

Darren said: “We used to put the wee coffee cups of water balanced on the dressing room door so whoever came in got soaked.

“In came Ebbe and we got him perfectly.

“I remember him roaring ‘who is this? I will kill him.’

“We used to have a table of all his sayings as well.

“It wasn’t until halfway, maybe three quarters of the way through the season that we had them all written down.

“Some of them were hilarious. ‘Daz Mackie, you are quicker than a bag of cheetahs’ while others I can’t repeat.

“All season you knew he would come away with something outrageous during his pre-match team talk and we had to sit there and try not to laugh.

“Then someone would race to the table to write it down before it was forgotten.

“There must have been 40 quotes on the table and they were all hilarious.”

Kevin McNaughton receives a cake from Ebbe Skovdahl on his 20th birthday. Image: Aberdeen Journals

‘That’s what he wanted, as soon as you came in – a big smile from everyone’

Prior to his arrival in the Granite City the Dane won four Danish league titles and three Danish Cups with Brondby.

He had also managed Portuguese giants Benfica.

Derek remembers Skovdahl demanded three things – hard graft, commitment and a big smile when you came in for training first thing in the morning.

Ebbe Skovdahl leads out Aberdeen against Rangers in the 2000 Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS

He said: “Ebbe was such a nice guy and I had so much time for him.

“We had a lot of laughs under him.

“And he didn’t mind that as long as you were working hard and doing your best he was fine.

“He knew you needed that bit of enjoyment as well.

“Ebbe always had a big smile when he came in in the morning.

“That’s what he wanted, as soon as you came in – a big smile from everyone.

“It was a case of we are here to train and do our hard work and then have a bit of fun after that.

“We had some good times under Ebbe… and some bad times.”

Ebbe Skovdahl speaks to Derek Young on the substitutes’ bench.

Honour of being made Dons captain

Skovdahl’s debut season finished with the Scottish Cup final against Rangers but it was beset by misfortune from the offset.

Gothenburg Great Jim Leighton received a horrific facial injury in the opening minutes.

With no keeper on the bench Skovdahl put striker Robbie Winters in goal.

Aberdeen lost 4-0.

The Dons had leaked 83 goals in 36 league games to finish bottom.

Darren missed the majority of that first season with a knee injury.

However Skovdahl would later hand him the club captaincy, at just 21.

The Dons reached two cup finals in Ebbe Skovdahl’s first season.

Darren said: “At the end of the season I was almost back to full fitness but I didn’t make the bench for either final.

“I was told ‘just leave it and get yourself focused on next season.’

“It was a nightmare as that was the season we finished bottom as well.

“The captaincy is something I appreciated and was grateful for.

“I was captain of the youth team and had played for the reserves before coming into the first team.

“It felt for me like it was a natural progression but it’s only when I’m older and I can look back that I realise what an honour it was to be given the captaincy.

“I didn’t realise at the time what it meant to be captain of the third or fourth biggest team in the country.

“I tried to do it as best as I could and was a player who led by example more than being a shouter.

“We had almost a full team of teenagers. Ryan Esson was in and out, we had Michael Hart, Russell Anderson, Phil McGuire and Kevin McNaughton.

“In midfield Baldur Bett and my brother Derek were there and up front we had Darren Mackie.

“It was a massive number of boys who had come through the youth team together.

“It was hard but we had a pretty decent team and ended up finishing fourth behind Hearts and getting back into Europe.”

Darren, left, and Derek Young at the Dons. Image: Jim Irvine Aberdeen Journals.

No nonsense attitude from Skovdahl

There would be progression in Skovdahl’s second season with Aberdeen finishing seventh in the league table – still not good enough for a club of its stature.

Skovdahl’s second season was also marred by a humiliating UEFA Cup exit to Irish club Bohemians.

Whist Skovdahl was renowned for his humour, he also a hard task master.

Darren and Derek young sign a new contract with Aberdeen.

Derek explains: “Under Ebbe there were times when we looked really good as a team.

“And times when we didn’t.

“It was a real experience playing for him.

“Ebbe always wanted people to work hard and do what was asked of them, that was the kind of manager he was.

“He had a way of playing and that was it.

“If you weren’t going to abide by what he was doing you would be on the bench or not even in the squad.

“Ebbe was a bit strict in that way.”

Manager Ebbe Skovdahl during the 2001/02 season at Aberdeen.

Rubbing out countdown to Magaluf

In Skovdahl’s third season Aberdeen finished fourth in the league to qualify for the UEFA Cup.

Skovdahl Aberdeen career came to an end in December 2002, following a poor run of form, when he announced he would leave the club.

He was willing to see out his contract until the end of the season but was replaced by Steve Paterson.

(L-R) Phil McGuire, Ebbe Skovdahl, Darren Mackie and Kevin McNaughton after traning at Gordon Barracks. Pic Rory Raitt 231101.

Darren said: “We kept a countdown to the end of season trip to Magaluf on a board.

“Every day someone would rub out how many days were left before the trip and update it.

“It never bothered Ebbe until we had a bad run and he’d be at the board rubbing out this number written top left of the board.”