Marking a debut for a new club with a goal is memorable – for a keeper to achieve that feat is extraordinary.
On August 30 1980, Belgian Marc de Clerck wrote his name into Pittodrie folklore by scoring with a long kick-out in a 4-1 second-round second-leg League Cup tie away to Berwick Rangers.
Such was the unique manner of his debut, De Clerck still has a cut-out from the match report in the Evening Express’ Green Final which came out hours after the game.
De Clerck would go on to make just two appearances for Aberdeen before an injury derailed his chances of being first-choice under Alex Ferguson. That honour would go to an emerging Jim Leighton.
Speaking from his home in Belgium, de Clerck, 70, insists that debut goal was even more of a surprise because he came from a continental footballing culture of playing the ball out from the back and building attacks.
It was a philosophy Ferguson was keen to instil in the Dons.
De Clerck said: “Ferguson was at that moment already a great supporter of the Dutch way of playing football.
“In Scotland, they were still playing a bit of kick and rush, whereas in Holland it was about building up from defence to attack.
“That was what Ferguson wanted from his keeper, to kick the ball to a defender so they can then start to build an attack.
“So I was a little bit surprised that in my first game I scored a goal by kicking out.
“It gave me a name in Scotland by my first game.
“The weather was awful with the wind blowing that day.
“On a rare occasion the ball came to me I saw Mark McGhee up front and thought I would kick it to him.
“The wind caught it and it bounced in the penalty area and into goal. I didn’t see it myself as there were too many players.
“The next thing my team-mates were running towards me – to congratulate me on scoring.
“As soon as we came home to Aberdeen there was the Green Final headline – ‘Mighty-kick Marc puts the boot into Berwick.’
“That was great and I still have the paper.”
There have been memorable Aberdeen scoring debuts, such as Hans Gillhaus against Dunfermline. However, none were as unique as de Clerck’s.
Aberdeen supporters who had not travelled to Berwick were keen for a repeat at Pittodrie.
He said: “The next day we were playing in a testimonial for Joe Harper at home.
“Each time I had the ball I would play it to a defender or midfielder, but the crowd were screaming at me.
“I couldn’t understand what they were saying. A team-mate told me the fans want you to kick the ball like at Berwick.
“So the next time the ball came to me I kicked it hard and all the fans were cheering and yelling, it was tremendous.”
De Clerck had signed from FC Twente on a one-year deal at the start of that season. He had been on loan at Go Ahead Eagles.
Aberdeen were reigning league champions when he signed.
He said: “ I did well in my next game against Kilmarnock and the newspapers were saying that Fergie had a problem with selection – De Clerck or Jim Leighton.
“That was a chance to become the first goalkeeper.
“However, I twisted my ankle in the first half. I played in the second half with a bandage but after the game when I took it off I had a foot as big as an elephant.
“Jim Leighton played and after that I didn’t get another game as he was doing so well. It was no surprise Jim went on to become No 1 in Scotland.”
De Clerck now works for the Belgian Football Association as a match delegate.
On retirement from football he was a manager and coach for 24 years.
He said: “At Aberdeen I also had a problem with a knee injury.
“That was one of the reasons Sir Alex decided at the end of the season to give me a free transfer. I think at that moment he was thinking I was no longer good enough to play what he wanted for Aberdeen.
“I went to Holland and played for Heracles.”