Pittodrie may have more sets of eyes on it this weekend than it has done in a long time.
With no fans allowed in stadiums for the foreseeable future and no English football now their season has concluded, Sky Sports’ broadcasting of Aberdeen’s season-opener against Rangers will be the main show in town.
Its 12.30pm start means it’s the first game of the day and is a fixture that always delivers value for entertainment.
The animosity between the two sets of supporters will not be found in the ground this weekend but to former Don Bryan Gunn, a Gothenburg Great from his time at Aberdeen, it will still have a significant appeal.
Gunn said: “It’s down to the players and how they adapt to the surroundings. Pittodrie is something they’re used to but they’ll still need to get used to the fact there’s no crowd in there. There’s some times that will enjoy it and some players will enjoy it, because there’s not as much pressure on them. The scrutiny will come from television and down south, we’ll be hearing about Scottish football more than ever before I believe.
“It’s still kept it’s level of anticipation and the dislike between the fanbases. I’m sure there’ll be people watching the television who might have a Rangers fan living next door. They might have banter over the garden fence rather instead of across the stadium.
“Aberdeen were top dogs in the 1980s and when I came back with Hibernian against Rangers, it was the travelling support that came along. Rangers will miss that backing and you tend to find those away fans are noisy, vociferous and really back the players on the pitch.
“Aberdeen fans too really lift themselves for the Old Firm and you hear them at their noisiest. They’re always tough games and I’m sure Saturday will be no different.”
The Dons’ last encounter with Rangers at Pittodrie ended in a 2-2 draw, with the hosts coming back from two goals down.
They have not beaten Rangers in the Granite City since James Maddison’s memorable free-kick in the closing stages of their September 2016 encounter.
Joe Lewis will be the man to lead the Dons out come tomorrow lunchtime and he is a figure Gunn knows well.
Gunn was Lewis’ goalkeeping coach at Norwich City before briefly becoming his manager. He was a childhood hero of the Dons’ skipper and was reached out to for advice when Lewis made the switch to Aberdeen.
Gunn added: “He was always mature, even as a youngster. He was a sensible lad, a brainy lad; he listened and learned. He bravely moved away from Norwich City when he was young, to find his level.
“He’s found a spiritual home at Aberdeen and I think it’s mutual between him and the fans – there’s a great respect and like to each other. He’s passionate about his game and he’s calm in the big moments.
“I look forward to seeing Joe in top form at the weekend and hopefully Aberdeen have a good season, because you need your goalkeeper at his best to help get points on the board and keep as many clean sheets as possible.”