As Willie Miller makes clear today and his fellow club legends will reinforce tomorrow and in Monday’s Evening Express, the 1979/80 Premier Division title is one of the defining achievements in Aberdeen’s history.
Not only did the Dons finally do what they had threatened to since their maiden title in 1954/55 – break Celtic and Rangers top-flight stranglehold, they set the tone for Alex Ferguson’s silverware laden reign as boss. Fergie’s Reds would of course lift the Premier Division trophy twice more, as well as conquering Europe and laying siege to the Scottish Cup for three straight years.
But 1979/80 wasn’t a procession like 1984/85 – the final time Aberdeen would win the top-flight – it was a title which was pulled from the fire, by a mixture of the old guard and young, future Gothenburg Greats who were at one point 12 points behind rivals Celtic.
Here are five of the games which defined the campaign:
Dundee United 1 – Aberdeen 3 (25/8/79)
Having won a first league game the week before against Hibs – they’d lost their opener at Firhill against Partick Thistle 1-0 – the Dons travelled to Tannadice to play a very strong United, who would eventually finish fourth, but beat them in what was all-in-all a patchy first half of the campaign.
A sign of the Tangerines’ strength exists in the fact they would beat the Reds in a League Cup final replay later in the campaign – the second year in a row Fergie’s men had blown it in the League Cup showpiece. He wouldn’t win that trophy until his final full season at Pittodrie.
However, that day on Tayside, a squad-reflecting mix of the still-developing, recently-acquired Mark McGhee, goalscoring legend Joe Harper and then-top man Steve Archibald scored to secure two points.
Aberdeen 3 – Rangers 2 (12/1/80)
This was the third league win of the campaign over the Gers, who were at that time struggling. But, crucially, it was also the second win, after St Mirren, of the run of form which would reel in Celtic.
With the Dons still fired up from their League Cup final replay loss a few weeks before, the pictures below tell the tale of the match, where youngster Derek Hamilton got the winner:
Celtic 1 – Aberdeen 2 (5/4/80)
Aberdeen’s record in the second half of the campaign was nothing short of superb, with just two league losses, one of which came on January 5 against Morton. Compare this to the fact they’d lost five times in the first part of the league season, which included a month off Premier Division business between mid-November and mid-December.
Their form is epitomised by the two April wins at Parkhead which put them on top in the title race. They were both games where they simply had to record victories.
First time around, the 1979/80 mix of old and young up top made the difference, with Drew Jarvie opening the scoring for Aberdeen, lashing home McGhee’s centre.
Johnny Doyle would equalise soon after with a header from a corner for the Hoops, but – in the second period – McGhee got the winner from a Jarvie cut-back.
Celtic 1 – Aberdeen 3 (23/4/80)
This game saw the Dons capitalise on the fact Celtic had lost to Dundee the week before while they’d been winning at Kilmarnock.
Archibald pounced on a loose ball in the Hoops’ area to score from close range after a few minutes, but George McCluskey equalised from the penalty spot on 11 minutes after being felled by a still-green Alex McLeish.
However, McGhee’s header from a Strachan cross put Aberdeen back in front on 45 minutes, before the winger rifled home the third after Celtic keeper Peter Latchford failed to hold on to a high ball. Cue Strachan’s most famous moment of celebration in the red of the Dons.
Hibernian 0 – Aberdeen 5 (3/5/80)
The day the title was won. With Aberdeen in charge of the title race, they just had to win and hope Celtic didn’t (the Hoops obliged with a 0-0 draw against St Mirren).
As far as games go, this one – considering the pressure the Reds team was under – couldn’t have gone any better.
It was a procession, with Archibald, Andy Watson, Ian Scanlon (2) and McGhee all finishing from close range.
All that was left were the celebrations, including Ferguson famously running around the Easter Road pitch with his arms outstretched before jumping into keeper Bobby Clark’s arms.