Former Aberdeen forward Darren Mackie will always be grateful for the role Ebbe Skovdahl had on his career.
The former Brondby and Benfica manager, who enjoyed a rollercoaster spell in charge of the Dons from 1999 to 2002, died yesterday at the age of 75 after battling cancer for several years.
Skovdahl’s first league victory with the Dons was a thrilling 6-5 victory at Motherwell, only a few days after suffering a 7-0 thrashing at Celtic Park.
It set the tone for a season of major highs and lows for the Dons under Skovdahl which culminated in the Reds reaching two Hampden cup finals only to lose to Celtic and Rangers respectively and finish bottom of the league.
The Dons avoided the play-offs by virtue of Falkirk’s stadium not meeting the SPL’s criteria and went on to finish seventh and fourth under the charismatic Dane in the following two seasons before he resigned in December 2002 after a poor start to the campaign.
Mackie, who made 365 appearances for the Dons, said Skovdahl had a major influence on his time at Pittodrie.
He said: “He had a huge impact on my career.
“He gave me my debut and for that I will be forever grateful for that.
“He said a lot of nice things about me when I was there and pushed me on to be the best I could be.
“He showed good faith in me and I always enjoyed working with him.
“He came into the club at a difficult time, but he was a popular manager.
“He was good fun to be around and the boys all liked him.
“He had a different way of working from what everyone was used to.
“I was younger and it was all fresh and new to me. I was just excited to be involved.
“It was great that he had that faith in me.”
Skovdahl was popular among the players and well-known for the journalistic gems he would feed the press, most notably his infamous line about statistics being like mini-skirts.
Mackie said: “He had some amazing one-liners.
“We had a table of them all written out in the dressing room at one point.
“The boys used to always reference some of his quotes and we still do when we are out together now or when we are talking to each other.
“Some of his quotes were very memorable.
“I have a lot of nice memories of my time with Ebbe, so I was really sad to hear he had died.”
While Aberdeen struggled for consistency in the league during Skovdahl’s tenure, leading the club to Hampden on two occasions during his first season in charge was no mean feat.
The Dons, however, weren’t able to take the final step to claim silverware under Skovdahl. A 2-0 defeat by Celtic in the League Cup final was followed by a 4-0 loss against Rangers in the Scottish Cup final when an early injury to Jim Leighton meant striker Robbie Winters had to don the gloves.
But Mackie believes Skovdahl deserved credit for his willingness to give young players, such as Kevin McNaughton, Darren and Derek Young, Phil McGuire and himself a chance in the Dons’ first team.
He added: “He did well at Aberdeen and the cup runs were obviously the standout highlights as we reached two cup finals.
“The league form wasn’t great, but he came in at a difficult time.
“He brought in quite a few players from abroad and it was a great time during my career.
“I enjoyed playing under him and he made you feel confident and like he believed in you.
“Looking back, he also brought a lot of young players into the team at that stage.
“Quite a few of us came through together.
“He was willing to take the chance and throw us into the starting line-up to see if we could handle it.
“A lot of us went on to have good careers and he was an important part of that.
“He is someone I always had a lot of respect for and I’m thankful he showed so much faith in me.”