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When the Dons conquered Europe

By Liam McLeod

Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox
Fergie and Archie Knox hold aloft the Cup-Winners' Cup
It remains the most celebrated and famous day in the history of Aberdeen Football Club. 11 May 1983.

The Dons' victory over the Galacticos of Real Madrid feels like yesterday to many a man, woman and child that made the trip to a sodden Sweden for what was to be the club's most famous night.

But come this Sunday, it will have been 25 years since Alex Ferguson, Willie Miller and co lifted the European Cup-Winners' Cup in torrential rain.

It was the jewel in the Dons' 80s crown.

The ensuing years have seen a series of highs and lows for the Pittodrie club.

It was special because Aberdeen was a small club

Sir Alex Ferguson

But it is that night in the Ullevi Stadium that was the true fairy-tale.

The realisation of a dream that can never be taken away from the club, the men who wore red that night, the 12,000 supporters who made the trip by whatever means possible or the city itself.

Internationalists such as Juanito, Jose Camacho and Johnny Metgod managed by the great Alfredo di Stéfano - Real Madrid were an awesome side.

The key was belief, and that had been instilled in abundance throughout a mesmerising campaign that saw Bayern Munich ousted in the quarter-finals.

John Hewitt
John Hewitt wheels away after putting the Dons in ecstasy

The Dons knew they had to come straight out of the traps if they were to stand a chance, and they did.

Eric Black's early spectacular volley from just outside the box had Agustin's crossbar shaking.

It was not long before the Dons got their noses in front.

The now famous sight of Gordon Strachan wading through a swimming pool-sized puddle to whip in a corner from the right was followed by Black eventually getting on the scoresheet.

Alex McLeish met the cross and his header found Black who spun and rifled Aberdeen into dreamland.

Not long after, however, McLeish went from provider to sinner as his slack back-pass agonisingly caught the soggy turf as Dons' hearts leapt to mouths.

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Santillana took advantage of the break and and as he tried to round Jim Leighton, the Scotland goalkeeper brought the Real skipper down at the expense of a penalty.

Juanito stroked the penalty home and for many, there was a feeling that the Dons' chance had gone.

Not so.

90 minutes could not seperate the sides and with it locked at 1-1, extra-time beckoned and it was in those 30 minutes that this Aberdeen team would become true legends.

The superb Peter Weir's delightful chip down the Aberdeen left was followed by an even more delightful cross by Mark McGhee which evaded the Real goalkeeper.

And one flick of substitute John Hewitt's head later, the men in red had one hand on a European trophy.

Legend has it that Hewitt - who replaced fellow goalscorer Black - was to be hooked himself because he kept trying to run with a ball that was sticking in the soaking turf.

Peter Weir, Alex Ferguson and Doug Rougvie
The manager is held aloft by Peter Weir and Doug Rougvie

Still, what did the management team know?

A late free-kick that fizzed just past Leighton's left-hand post was the final nervy moment as the Italian referee blew for full-time.

Legends had been made.

As Sir Alex Ferguson recently told the League Managers association website: "When you look back you say to yourself 'how did I manage to beat Bayern Munich who were the favourites and then beat Real Madrid in the final?'

"It was special because Aberdeen was a small club.

"I just had two girls working for me in the office, the secretary, a couple of people running the pools in another office. I had [assistant manager] Archie Knox, my reserve coach and a physiotherapist and that was it."

The Dons would go on to beat European Cup winners Hamburg in the Super Cup to cement their position as Europe's undisputed best in 1983.


Aberdeen: Leighton, Rougvie, McMaster, Cooper, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Simpson, McGhee, Black (Hewitt, 87), Weir.

Goals: Black 7, Hewitt 112.

Real Madrid: Agustín, Juan José, Metgod, Bonet, Camacho (Isidoro San Jose, 91), Stielike, Gallego, Ángel, Juanito, Carlos Santillana, Isidro (Salguero, 103).

Goal: Juanito 14.

Att: 17,804

Ref: Gianfranco Menegali (Italy)


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