As he readies to step down as chairman, Stewart Milne revealed he had to make painful choices to ensure the club he loved did not go under during the global recession.
Milne believes – had he chosen a different path – the club could have been destroyed.
After 22 years as chairman, Milne will hand over a club debt-free and complete with a new £13 million training complex to successor Dave Cormack.
Following the Annual General Meeting on December 16, vice-chairman Cormack will officially take up the chairman role.
Milne, 69, is confident the club is healthier and stronger than when he took over as chief in 1997.
However, Milne reckons only tough calls he accepts were not popular with supporters ensured the club emerged from the chaos and uncertainty of the global financial crash of 2008 that plunged many other clubs into disaster.
He said: “I don’t think we will ever be able to articulate to the fans the journey we had to come through to get the club to where it is.
“I am sure lots of fans will always believe there might have been a better and easier path to come down that delivered more for the club.
“If that is how people want to view it, I have no problem with that.
“I believe we could have so easily chosen an alternative path and there would have been a high risk that the club might not even be here.
“When you look back at when the financial crash came in 2008, it hit every single sector including the football world.
“At that point in time Scottish football was already very vulnerable with all the issues around our contract with Sky. Most of the clubs were in a position where they still had substantial debt.
“We were one of the few clubs that managed to come through that next period intact. However, it was an extremely challenging period for us as there were many occasions during that time where we were fast running out of money.
“What played a major part in saving us is that we were one of the first clubs to face up to reality in the early 2000s – that we simply had to get ourselves into a position where we learnt to live within our means.
“That took us through a fairly painful period which I totally accept was difficult for the fans.”
There have been highs and lows during Milne’s reign with the only periods of success coming recently under Derek McInnes and also former boss Jimmy Calderwood.
During his time at Pittodrie many clubs went to the wall – Rangers, Motherwell, Dundee, Livingston, Hearts.
Milne said: “All I would ask is that our supporters look at their club Aberdeen and compare it with most other clubs in Scottish football.
“Where would they rather be at this point in time?
“I think we have the club in really good shape with a sound platform for Dave to move us on to the next level.
“That is what we have to make sure we do.
“Dave will have my total support in driving forward to try to take the club on to the next level.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs during that period, but I will be able to hand the baton to Dave feeling confident within myself it will be in better condition than when I picked it up.”
Having negotiated Aberdeen through the turbulent waters of a global financial crash and problems within the Scottish game, Milne finally landed silverware in 2014.
Winning the League Cup at Parkhead in 2014 was a highlight of his reign. He was delighted to finally deliver a trophy for supporters who he accepts also suffered during the financial crash.
Milne said: “It wasn’t just the fact that clubs were suffering (following 2008).
“Our whole fanbase was suffering and everyone had to make painful choices during that period.
“Lots of our fans had to make sacrifices where they had been season ticket holders for a long time but had to sacrifice going to games because they couldn’t afford to.
“That is something that has to be factored in. However, we never got ourselves into the position where we lost control of the club.
“We are also one of the very few clubs that have never been relegated.
“I think those are two very important measures.”