Premiership clubs preparing for the new season amid the coronavirus crisis are having to take friendly opportunities where they can find them.
Aberdeen are no different and began the next stage of their preparations in earnest when top-flight rivals Ross County travelled to the bio-secure Cormack Park for a bounce game on Saturday, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
This run-out will have been valuable in putting training ground theory into practice against familiar opposition, on a quality playing surface and amid the rest of the recently-built, state-of-the-art Cormack Park facilities.
However, during pre-seasons gone by, albeit before Derek McInnes’ time and the restrictions of Covid-19, the Dons have often played more exotic opponents than a team based just a few hours’ drive away. These games usually took place on tours to a foreign land, where everything is up for grabs, including the state of the pitch, the ability and aggression of the opposition.
We thought this was the perfect time to reminisce about some of the more interesting summer friendlies Aberdeen have played abroad in previous years.
Alstatte 0 – Aberdeen 12
In the summer of 2012, Craig Brown’s Reds began their pre-season trip to Germany – which also included matches against Werder Bremen and St Pauli – with a friendly against amateur outfit Alstatte.
It is stating the obvious, when you’ve read the score, to say it wasn’t a particularly difficult 90 minutes for the Reds, who ran amok, with nine different goalscorers and three penalties.
Despite the 6-0 scoreline after 45 minutes, the home keeper actually made a few good stops to keep the first half out of double figures territory.
One of our reporters who went on the pre-season trip with Aberdeen summed up the mis-match in just a couple of lines, saying: “It was a tiny village in Germany and their left-back wore normal glasses throughout.
“He was the chairman’s son and was eating hotdogs before he came on.”
Bochum 2 – Aberdeen 1
The year before their rout of Alstatte, Brown’s Dons’ pre-season trip to Germany was notable for a sweary outburst new skipper Richard Foster – who had been on loan at Rangers during the 2010/11 season – directed at some members of the Red Army who made the trip to the Continent.
In the game itself, Aberdeen looked to have secured a draw when striker Darren Mackie put the ball in the Bundesliga II outfit’s net on 85 minutes. However, the home side scored their winner as the game entered injury time.
After the game, full-back Foster – instead of playing down his run-in with the supporters, who for their part had jeered him and told him to go back to Ibrox – was unapologetic said he’d do it all again.
“If they give me abuse the whole game I will let them know and make it apparent,” Foster, who has continued to have a fractious relationship with the Red Army in the years since leaving Pittodrie, said.
“I know it may only be a small section of fans, but I will make it apparent it is not acceptable.
“One thing Aberdeen have is a good section of fans and that has helped us over the past few seasons, but there is a small section who have taken a dislike to me.
“But I won’t shy away from that. I will let them know I don’t enjoy it. If the fans get behind me and I am doing my job on the pitch, fine.
“But if they start giving me abuse, I will let them know I don’t accept it.”
Rietvogels 0 – Aberdeen 10
Jimmy Calderwood’s Dons played eight friendlies in the summer of 2008 as they geared up for the start of the SPL season.
Among their opponents were Manchester United, who beat the Reds 2-0 at Pittodrie in a match arranged to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the club’s European Cup Winners’ Cup success. There were also games in Holland against a variety of opposition – DZC (5-0 win), FC Zwolle (2-1 loss) and Vitesse Arnheim (2-1 win).
The final game of the trip was an absolute trouncing of amateur side Rietvogels – which was perhaps designed as a final confidence booster rather than a real test of Aberdeen’s ability.
Scott Severin, Peter Pawlett, Michael Paton, Jeffrey De Visscher and Chris Maguire (2) were all on the scoresheet.
“Who scored the other four?”, we hear you scream. It was trialist Dyon Camero, who netted four on his only Aberdeen start.
The fact Camero scored a hat-trick-plus-one again reflects the quality of the opposition. A match report in the EE from the game said “most Scottish pub sides could’ve done better”.
Assistant boss Jimmy Nicholl was a touch more diplomatic about Rietvogels and said: “We had to stay professional and treat the game in the right manner, and we did that.
“But I accept the quality of the opponents meant there was little we could take from the game.”
The Dons lost their league opener against Inverness (2-0) little more than a week later.
El-Ittihad 1 – Aberdeen 2
Calderwood’s team’s trip to Egypt for a pre-season tournament in 2007 was… eventful.
With the Reds training twice a day and in the morning on match-days, and taking on their opponents in blistering conditions, they took a while to acclimatise, losing their first two matches to Arab Contractors (2-0) and Al-Aliminum (3-2).
As a result, they were getting pelters in the Egyptian media going into their third friendly, against Al-Ittihad, which was not only a heated affair because of the North African climate.
In the first half, after Jamie Smith had a penalty saved, the home team scored from a very soft free-kick and Chris Clark was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for booting the ball away.
Jeffrey De Visscher hauled the Dons level before the interval, before some further exuberant officiating after the break saw El-Ittihad also reduced to 10 men. Thankfully for Aberdeen, Steve Lovell then slotted home a winner.
The evening wasn’t quite over, though, with Reds midfielder Barry Nicholson sent off, confusingly, for checking up on team-mate Chris Maguire. Maguire appeared to have been punched in an incident seconds earlier which saw a second home played dismissed.
All very bizarre.
On top of this, when you add in the fact Smith and defender Michael Hart had been lucky to escape a motorway pile-up while travelling back to the hotel before the Al-Alimunum game, it wasn’t the best of pre-season trips.
Hart spoke about the Egypt adventure in 2013, saying: “The heat over there was ridiculous and was a real struggle.
“It was absolutely blistering.
“For the first few days the climate was a killer and we were sweating heavily before training even started.
“That’s why you are better staying where you know and perhaps why we ended up going to Holland for later seasons. Jimmy Calderwood knew what he was getting over there in terms of training facilities, pitches and weather.”
Jamie Smith recalls pre-season in Egypt in this clip:
Farum 1 – Aberdeen 3
Ebbe Skovdahl’s Aberdeen often found themselves meeting Scandinavian opposition in pre-season. For obvious reasons.
One of the games during this period came in July 2001 in the final match of their Danish tour, against the club now known as FC Nordsjælland.
Skovdahl’s team were 1-0 down at half-time, but scored three times in 12 second half minutes – via Thomas Solberg (penalty), Thor Bett and David Lilley – to secure victory.
However, the game was most notable for the first half incident (one which again shows there are no such thing as friendlies to competitive, professional players) where Moroccan magician Hicham Zerouali was sent off.
Taking umbrage with a decision just before the interval, “Zero” – who was struggling to reach his previous level after suffering a broken ankle the previous season – kicked the ball away, which earned him a booking. However, he soon received another yellow card and then a red for responding by sticking two fingers up at the referee, Emil Lauersen .
In what was a strange incident, Kevin Rutkiewicz was subbed on – as the clubs had agreed any players dismissed in the friendly could be replaced.