Pittodrie legend Frank McDougall today claimed Aberdeen must face Celtic with the belief they can beat the league leaders.
The former Reds sharpshooter reckons his old club don’t have to look too far for inspiration – last season’s 2-1 Scottish Cup final defeat to the Hoops.
McDougall was impressed as the Reds sweated “blood and tears” at Hampden in May.
He reckons a repeat display against the defending champions at Pittodrie on Sunday could deliver a win that would send out a message to Scottish football.
Few are better qualified than McDougall to discuss what it takes to beat the Hoops.
He famously scored all four goals in a 4-1 humbling of Celtic at Pittodrie on November 4, 1985.
McDougall’s formula for dumping Celtic is threefold – self belief, concentration and get into their faces.
The goal hero, who turned 60 yesterday, said: “The key to beating Celtic is having belief in yourself.
“To beat teams like Celtic and Rangers you have to go out with that feeling you can do it.
“At Aberdeen in the 1980s we had that every single day of the week. When I played I knew I was going to do well and score against teams like the Old Firm.
“I didn’t care who I was playing against – whether it was Johan Cruyff or Michel Platini, I fancied myself.”
McDougall has set up a night at the Beach Leisure Centre on Saturday, March 17, honouring the Reds’ side who beat Bayern Munich 3-2 on the way to lifting the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983.
He reckons unflinching confidence was key to that side beating the German giants 35 years ago – and it must be at the heart of the bid to beat Celtic for the first time in 10 attempts.
The Red Army idol reckons the Dons just have to rewind nine months for the blueprint.
He said: “I want to see Aberdeen play every week like they did in the Scottish Cup final against Celtic last May.
“They gave it all in that game – blood, sweat, tears, the lot – and were very unlucky.
“On Sunday, Aberdeen just have to get into Celtic’s faces and do the same as they did in the final.
“Celtic are just players.
“There is not a massive difference between Celtic and Aberdeen when you go player by player.
“Look what Hearts did to them at Tynecastle when they beat them 4-0 earlier this season.
“They got in about them and pressured their back three.
“Celtic are always going to be a threat as they have players like Scott Sinclair, Moussa Dembele, Charly Musonda and others.
“James Forrest is on fire at the moment.
“However, Hearts got in their faces, battered them and it could have been more than 4-0 on the day. If Aberdeen can do the same and win it would send out a message to all clubs.”
McDougall’s destruction of Celtic in the winter of 1985 will live long in the memories of those privileged enough to witness it.
Aberdeen were defending league champions, facing the team they beat to the title six months previously.
An imperious, prolific scorer who netted 24 in the previous title-winning season, McDougall bagged the opener in the 27th minute.
Celtic hit back just before half-time to equalise through Davie Provan.
After the break it was the McDougall masterclass as he hit another three goals in the 48th, 55th and 64th minutes.
He said: “We absolutely battered Celtic and I scored all four goals, which was a great feeling.
“In the title-winning season we hammered Celtic 4-2 at Pittodrie as well.
“We were cruising at 3-1 and Peter Weir crossed the ball to me late on and I headed it in at the Merkland Road end.”
Those halcyon days seem a different world now as Aberdeen have lost the previous nine games to Celtic.
To compound the situation the Dons face the Hoops on the back of a 2-0 defeat at Hibs where boss Derek McInnes admitted they were “murdered”.
The loss of skipper Graeme Shinnie through suspension was felt at Easter Road.
Shinnie’s ban carries over into Sunday and Celtic attacker Ryan Christie is also ruled out as he cannot face his parent club.
McDougall said: “I thought Aberdeen were on a roll as they were scoring good goals and getting wins.
“Then they went to Hibs and played abysmally.
“I was gobsmacked by the Dons’ performance at Easter Road.
“With Shinnie and Christie out it will be a big ask but Aberdeen can score goals at home.
“Shinnie is a great player and he was missed big time against Hibs, but they are not a one-man team.
“Barcelona would miss Messi.
“I’m not saying Shinnie is like Messi, but teams all have their players they would miss.
“Such as Scott Brown with Celtic. A lot of people maybe don’t like Brown, but he has been a fabulous professional.
“Against Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League first leg he was immense.
“He also bossed the game against Aberdeen in the last match up at Pittodrie (3-0 Celtic win).”
Despite losing all five games to the Old Firm this season, the Dons are still in the mix at the top of the Premiership table.
They are level on points with Rangers, who occupy second spot on goal difference.
Aberdeen are nine points adrift of defending champions Celtic.
McDougall said: “It is okay beating teams like St Johnstone and Partick Thistle, but you have to beat Celtic, Rangers and Hibs, who are now progressing well.
“Rangers and Hibs are both improving, but I still say Aberdeen and Celtic are the two best teams in the league.
“I would love to see Aberdeen beat Celtic to really make a statement.”