Pittodrie scoring legend Frank McDougall today backed Aberdeen to finish above Rangers in the Premiership race.
The Dons secured just one signing during the summer in landing Jonny Hayes – but McDougall reckons the winger’s return can be pivotal.
After four months of inactivity due to the pandemic, Aberdeen finally return to action with a Premiership opener against Rangers on Saturday.
McDougall famously netted a hat-trick to destroy Rangers 5-1 at Pittodrie on January 19 1985.
Aberdeen 5 – Rangers 1 in 1985:
Aberdeen won the league title that season for a third time under Sir Alex Ferguson.
That triumph was the last time a club outwith Celtic and Rangers would lift the league crown.
Dons great McDougall accepts Celtic are red-hot favourites to secure a 10th straight title, but reckons Derek McInnes’ Reds can split the Glasgow two.
He said: “Aberdeen are good enough to finish above Rangers.
“They should be pushing them, although without a doubt Celtic will be favourites to win it again.
“Getting Jonny Hayes is a great signing for Aberdeen.
“He never let Celtic down in the three years he was at Parkhead.
“If Hayes did not let the champions down, then he is not going to let Aberdeen down.
“Hayes can be played in a few different positions. He played at left-back for Celtic and can also play on the left wing.”
McDougall was a consistent tormentor of Rangers and Celtic.
He would net all four goals in a 4-1 defeat of Celtic at Pittodrie.
His hat-trick against Rangers and quadruple against the Hoops were scored in front of a packed Pittodrie, buoyed by the backing of a passionate Red Army.
On Saturday, the stadium will be empty as no supporters are allowed due to social distancing restrictions, but Aberdeen hope supporters can begin to be phased back in October.
McDougall said: “It will be tough having no fans there.
“However, it is what it is and Aberdeen will just have to get on with it.”
Signed from St Mirren for £100,000 in 1984 as a replacement for Hamburg-bound Mark McGhee, McDougall smashed in 24 goals in all competitions in his debut season.
He was the top goalscorer in Scotland and netted a hat-trick in a 3-0 defeat of Hearts at Tynecastle to secure the title.
The treble against Rangers in that title-winning season was his first Dons hat-trick.
He said: “I remember battering Rangers in that game and I could have scored more goals.
“I scored two headers and the third was a nutmeg.
“We beat them at Ibrox twice that season as well.
“That was the season we went on to win the league title, which was fantastic.
“Beating Rangers and Celtic, that was down to the mindset that Sir Alex had.
“When I was at St Mirren we would go down to Ibrox and Parkhead and sit outside, thinking if we could win in there…
“But it was different with Sir Alex (Ferguson), we went in there expecting to win.
“We were a better team than them and he told us to move the ball quickly and get in about them.
“The following season I scored four against Celtic, which says it all.”
In the 1984-85 title-winning season Aberdeen were unbeaten against Rangers in the league, winning three times and drawing once.
The Dons, on retaining the title, finished a massive 21 points ahead of fourth-placed Rangers.
That gap stretches into a chasm when taking into account the fact that only two points were awarded for a win back then.
The following season, McDougall, now 62, hit 20 goals as Aberdeen won the Scottish Cup and League Cup double.
However, his career was cruelly cut short the following season when forced to retire early due to a persistent back problem.
He said: “There is always no love lost in the games between Aberdeen and Rangers.
“It would be a great start for Aberdeen if they can get a win on Saturday.”