The Northern Lights and False Memory Syndrome: Rangers v Aberdeen

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I schooled with a lad named Peter, we played football for the same Boys' Clubs and indeed our school. He had the sweetest left foot and revelled in our three years at Fir Park Boys Club. He loved the claret and amber, the mighty 'Well, to the extent he believed Jumbo Muir was the future football, in the same way Bruce Springsteen was the future rock'n'roll. We were beneficiaries of being coached by Northern Irish internationalist, Billy Campbell and future manager of Falkirk, Alloa, Partick Thistle, .. etc, Billy Lamont. We watched the sublime Bobby Graham doing extra training, all ball work, and received complimentary tickets for the Enclosure when 'Well took on a succession of top flight English clubs in the Texaco Cup.

We are all badly advised at seventeen, tertiary education demanded I study Economics; Peter determined upon unfettered parental control by heading 160 miles north to Aberdeen. English Literature was his poison. Academia paled in our first year, season '74/'75 was seminal for Bears, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. We were sustaining a league challenge, and for the first time in a decade, would culminate in Colin Stein's equalising bullet header at Easter Road. Pomagne corks were popping. Motherwell was bathed in sunshine too, Wullie Pettigrew prompted by Bobby Graham sustained a top four place, and bettered us in the cups.

We had an opportunity to meet up with Peter at the end of January '75, the Scottish Cup third round draw paired us with the Dandy Dons. Three of us travelled on the Tannochside RSC Bus, had the purvey at Stonehaven and met the 'Well man at Aberdeen Uni Union. Like all other trips then to Aberdeen, a relaxed affair. The weather was foul, standing atop the open terrace at Pittodrie in those days was an exercise in endurance. Our entertainment arrived in the then manager of Arbroath, Albert Henderson and his brother. They clung to a stanchion for dear life whilst cheering the Rangers. Ally Scott scored the opener after the hour mark, The Dons new wonder kid at Centre forward, Wullie Miller equalised with two minutes remaining on the clock. The replay on the Monday night, saw Rangers run out at the floodlit Ibrox in an all white strip, in front of 55,000. They scored in the first minute, we drew level through Bobby McKean, and the game went into extra-time. Another late goal from Davidson saw the Dons progress.

The quarter-finals took the 'Well to Pittodrie and Peter's Dad offered two of us a lift. We sat in sunshine in the Main Stand, and watched Motherwell control the game for a deserved 0-1 victory. We retired to the Uni Union and it began. Peter's auld man, Peter senior was assumed to have a Glaswegian accent, and received a number of faux concerned inquiries as to life in a Glasgow slum? Peter senior spent several minutes confirming their prejudice and then parried with, "what was it like to live in a quarantined city"? A decade before, Aberdeen had suffered an outbreak of Typhoid, in excess of 500 hospitalised because of a rogue tin of Fray Bentos corned beef. The retorts were angry, tinged with denial, and lots of assertions of being Europe's oil capital. Peter junior being more literate, quoted Lewis Grassic Gibbon's (Aberdeenshire born author of 'A Scots Quair') comparison of both cities women. A Glaswegian women was beyond personification whereas an Aberdonian was a thin lipped peasant who had borne eleven and buried nine, leaving a pinched demeanour. We left the Union to a chorus of, 'in your Glasgow slums'.

It was the first time I was aware of their anger and the next season saw their newly appointed manager, Ally McLeod tap into it. It was February and the Rangers treble bandwagon was rolling. The fourth round of the Scottish Cup had paired us with Aberdeen. It was a double header, because the Dandies were due at Ibrox on league business the week before. McLeod had left Ayr United and was determined to install a sense of superiority into the dull Dons left by departing Jimmy Bonthrone. Ally mainlined, the league game would be business as usual, but the Cup would see the Reds represent Europe's oil capital, they would fly first class to Glasgow and new tactics would derail the treble bandwagon. The 7th of the month arrived, 35,000 attended, Rangers quickly notched a couple through Martin Henderson and wee Doddie. Aberdeen scored a late consolation. Valentine's Day was going to be a massacre, ten thousand Dandies were descending, some of the oil oligarchs were accompanying the team on the flight, replete in sheepskins and Stetsons. Sixty thousand trapped, and half 'ra Sellik end was covered in red and white.

Ally's new tactics were evident at kick-off, they took centre and eight of the team crowded the left side of the centre line, poised to sprint forward, ready to crowd the punt. The ball drifted out for a throw-in. Much like their performance, one big drift. Rangers battered them, DJ scored in the fifth minute, Doddie added just after half time, they scored late on, stimulating Rangers to add another couple through Parlane and Henderson. Aberdeen drifted off to catch their flight home.

Later, that summer we did what under graduates did in those days, we headed to Greece. A group approaching a dozen agreed to meet up in Paxos for a few days. The conversation came around to angry Dons, and Peter having spent two years among the heavenly dancers contributed most. The Union had banned both halves of the Old Firm supporters buses from Glasgow Uni'. Apparently, due to our separated brethren wrecking it on a previous visit. The City Police were determined to not allow supporters buses overnight stays. A newly found confidence was abroad. McLeod tapped into it and SAF gave it a particular focus. Numerous incidents down the years on both sides have exacerbated the situation, but my memory is clear when things began to change.

Back to the 'Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen': the lyrics to the song were penned by Mary Webb, born in Leamington Spa, she had never visited Aberdeen. The melody emanates from James S. Kerr, a Glaswegian from Berkeley Street, born 1870. Since one of our dreaming four lads, Peter Campbell came from the same street, I like to think James S. Kerr was heavily influence by Peter's whistling? Thus, those Northern Lights mean false memory syndrome.

Tomorrow evening, we will be light in the midfield, I suspect Holt and Goss to be the central two. Windass, Murphy, and Candeias in front of those two, and behind Morelos. The back four will be Tav', Wilson, Martin, and John. Fod' between the sticks. They have a lot of pace and drive in the wide areas, and I suspect McInnes will play the full width of the pitch. The first goal will be everything, I take us to get it and go on to secure a 2-1 victory.

Possible team (4-2-3-1):

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