Pittodrie great Steve Murray insists Aberdeen should have ended Celtic’s nine-in-a-row run in 1971 as the Reds were the best team in Scotland.
Celtic secured nine-in-a-row for a second time last month when the SPFL board ended the Premiership campaign early due to the Covid-19 crisis.
It remains the “saddest moment” in the former midfielder’s career that the Dons “blew it” in the final games of the 1970-71 season to lose the title he believes they deserved.
Such was Murray’s influence that season Celtic boss Jock Stein would later buy him from the Dons to complete nine-in-a-row.
Murray said: “We were the best team in the league that season.
“Aberdeen were better than Celtic that season – we definitely were.
“That was the saddest moment for me that we didn’t get the title as we had such a great team.
“We blew it in the last few games which was such as shame.
“If we had won the league that season, Celtic would not have got their nine in a row.
“Then when I went to Celtic Jock Stein bought me to get nine in a row – those were his words.
“And we won nine in a row.
“But I would not have got that nine in a row with Celtic if I had won the league with Aberdeen.”
Aberdeen shocked European Cup finalists Celtic 3-1 in the Scottish Cup final the previous season.
The 1970 Scottish Cup win ranks among Aberdeen’s greatest achievements:
That Hampden triumph served notice of an intention by Eddie Turnbull’s side to break the stranglehold of Scottish football Celtic had held since the 1965-66 season.
Murray was cup tied for that 1970 Scottish Cup final having captained Dundee in the semi against Celtic.
Soon after that semi he joined Aberdeen for a then record club fee of £50,000.
He said: “When Eddie Turnbull signed me he said I was the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle.
“He said I was the missing bit because they had Bobby Clark in goal, Martin Buchan at the back, Joe Harper up front and I was to be the bit in the middle.
“I understood that.”
Aberdeen were top of the table going into the final stretch of the title race, but suffered a dip in form that would prove disastrous to the title aspirations.
Murray said: “You reach a peak at something and you have to take it and that was our time.
“That was the season we went 13 games (1,115 minutes) without losing a goal which was a new clean sheet record.
“We played with virtually the same team every game in what was a kind of 4-3-3.
“We kept the same team and formation and knew how to play with one another. There are no easy games, but to win a league title you have to win, if just 1-0, even when not at your best.
“You have to grind out results and that is what you see with the current Celtic team.”
The Dons bid for a first title since 1955 ended with a stuttering run-in, taking just two points from the final four games.
That included a 1-1 draw with Celtic. Crucially Murray missed the run-in due to injury.
He said: “I picked up a toe injury with four games to go and it was a bad one which came back to haunt me three years later.”
The heartache of narrowly missing out on the title was compounded when that summer Turnbull left to take over Hibs.
Despite that setback, Murray insists the belief Aberdeen could end Celtic’s title dominance in 1971-72 remained strong.
He said: “Eddie leaving was hard.
“However, after losing out on the title the previous season, we didn’t feel that bad.
“We were still buoyant.
“We just thought if we didn’t win the league title the previous season then we could just go and do it the next one instead.
“That 1971-72 season was the first time the Drybrough Cup was played, which was a pre-season tournament.
“We beat Celtic in the final (2-1), so we were still strong.
“We did well in the 1971-72 season, but yet again dropped away towards the end of that season to Celtic.
“Under Jimmy Bonthrone we weren’t as effective. That season we were second to Celtic by six points.”
Painting through the pandemic
Former Aberdeen, Celtic and Scotland midfielder Steve Murray is using the time during the Covid-19 lockdown to paint.
Throughout his footballing career and after his retirement from playing, Murray painted and drew.
An accomplished artist, Murray, 75, is currently working on three paintings – including one of his favourite goal.
That goal was the extra-time winner against Swiss side Basel to send Celtic into the European Cup semi-final in 1974.
Celtic had lost 3-2 in Switzerland and then won 3-2 at Parkhead. The tie went into extra time and Murray netted the winner in the 114th minute.
In the semi final, Celtic lost 2-0 on aggregate to Atletico Madrid.
Murray said: “In one of my scrapbooks there is a goal I scored against Basel.
“I thought I would paint that for myself.
“I have the drawing of it, but have not got round to painting it yet.
“Once you get that drawing you are fine and can get stuck into the painting.”
Murray is keeping busy during lockdown and is currently working on a number of pieces.
He said: “I am working on three at the moment.
“The Basel goal and also a volleyball scene from California where I go to visit my son.
“I have nearly finished that and am also doing a portrait.
“I did a lot (of painting) for charity and made prints so they could sell them to raise money.
“I used to hang paintings up in the wall and when I took them down my wife would say ‘what are you doing, I like them’.
“I only put them up because I didn’t think something was right with them and would look at them over and over until I realised what was wrong.”