On Sunday Rangers head to Aberdeen to take on one of our biggest rivals for the league title, or at least for second place. The atmosphere of an Aberdeen v Rangers game is described as toxic. Some supporters say that playing Aberdeen has actually become more toxic than an Old Firm match. To try and find out why, I went back into the history of Aberdeen FC.
They originate from the amalgamation of three football teams in 1903: Aberdeen FC, Victoria United and Orion. Due to financial reasons they actually dropped out of senior football in 1917 only to re-emerge in 1919. Funny they seem to have kept these 2 years as part of their history. Their supporters are proud in calling themselves 'The Reds' but in fact it was not until 1939 that they started wearing red; their colours until then were actually Gold and Black vertical stripes. They changed to red to match the colours of Aberdeen city council. Apart from a period just after the war, and then in the '80's where they won 3 league titles under Alex Ferguson, they have always really been the also rans of Scottish football, only winning the league on 4 occasions
One funny thing is their first League title was was won under a manager called Halliday and that was in season 54-55. Maybe an omen for Andy to take over the captaincy and drive us on to title number 55?
There is nothing in their early history that would suggest there was any toxic or unfriendly atmosphere at an Aberdeen v Rangers match, that seems to have developed in the '80's. One incident that could have fueled the bad relationship was when Willie Johnston stamped on John McMaster's neck at Ibrox in a Scottish League Cup tie. That still lives long in the memory of many Aberdeen fans.
Another reason could be the tactic of Sir Alex Ferguson who would try to work people up by convincing them that the whole of the West of Scotland were against them, including the old Firm and the media. It certainly worked as he lifted 3 league titles and they became the only Scottish club to win 2 European trophys. That success certainly upgraded the rivalry between Aberdeen and the Old Firm.
The appointment of Graeme Souness as the Rangers manager to bring Rangers to the top of Scottish football almost coincided with the departure of Alex Ferguson to Manchester United. With Rangers gaining success after success, winning 9 league titles in a row and Aberdeen virtually returning to their also ran status, this probably created a lot of resentment and jealousy turning into the hatred of our club.
One other fact worth mentioning that brought bad blood to the game was the career-threatening injury suffered by Ian Durrant after a horrible tackle from Neil Simpson. Ian Durrant was out of the game for 3 years but could never get near to reaching the potential he had before his injury. Even to this day the Aberdeen supporters still sing the name of Neil Simpson when Rangers are in town.
It has been well noted that Rangers and Aberdeen have both had mediocre starts to the season, with both teams only mustering up 9 points from the opening 6 games. Only in the League cup have Rangers really shown the real form that we produced last season to win the Championship. Part of the reason could be the breaking-in of 11 new players, and key players in Joey Barton and Nico Kranjcar both missing a full pre-season. The Joey Barton affair has been well documented and he is a certainty to miss the next few games.
Andy Halliday has returned to playing the deeper defensive-midfield role and the Rangers midfield certainly looks quicker and more mobile when he plays in that position.
Another part of our problem has been amateur defending, but with Clint Hill and Danny Wilson coming in for the last 2 games they look to have steadied the ship in that department - although being honest they have not been put under much pressure. Aberdeen will certainly pose a bigger threat with Adam Rooney almost certain to start up front, and our defenders will certainly have their hands full to hold him at bay. Bringing Philippe Senderos or Rob Kiernan back are the other options. I fully expect Lee Wallace to return to left-back with Lee Hodson returning to the Bench. James Tavernier will take up his usual place at right-back.
Scoring more goals than your opponent is the name of the game and there-in lies another part of our mediocre start. We can keep possession of the ball but most of the time we are so pedestrian that defending against us has been pretty easy up until now. In the last league game Ross County didn't even really try to attack us and were trying for a draw with time-wasting tactics from the first minute. I doubt if Aberdeen will play as negatively as that so hopefully we will get a more open game. If and when we do get chances though we have to start taking them as we have had chances to win all our games, except against Celtic, but we have to learn to be more lethal in that area.
I expect the team to be: Foderingham; Tavernier, Senderos, Wilson, Wallace; Forrester, Halliday, Holt; Waghorn, Garner, McKay.
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