Aberdeen Football Club (also known as The Dons, The Reds and The Dandies) is a Scottish professional football club based in Aberdeen. They compete in the Scottish Premier League and are one of the most successful teams in their country, having won four league titles and seven Scottish Cups, including a record three in a row during the 1980s, the only time a team has done this outside of the Old Firm in over 100 years. They are also the only Scottish team to have won two European trophies, both in the same year. Despite competing in the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup finals, both in 2000, they have not won any silverware since 1995.
Formed in 1903 as a result of the amalgamation of three clubs from Aberdeen, they rarely challenged for honours until the 1950s, when they won each of the major Scottish trophies under manager Dave Halliday. This level of success was surpassed in the 1980s, when, under the management of Alex Ferguson, they won three league titles, four Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup, alongside the European Cup Winners' Cup and the European Super Cup, both in 1983. Aberdeen were the last club outside of the Old Firm to win a league title, in 1984–85, and also the last Scottish team to win a European Championship.
Aberdeen have played at Pittodrie Stadium since their inception. The ground currently has a capacity of 22,199 and was the first all-seated and all-covered stadium in the United Kingdom. Pittodrie was also the first football stadium to feature a dugout, an invention of player and coach Donald Colman. The club's colours have been primarily red and white since 1939; before this, they played in black and gold vertical stripes.
Aberdeen attract support from the city and surrounding areas, as they are the only senior team within a wide area. Aberdeen have no geographically close rivals; their nearest neighbours at the same level are in the city of Dundee, with Dundee United having been their principal rivals in the New Firm in the 1980s. Rangers supplanted Dundee United as rivals in the late 1980s, but the rivalry, while fierce, does not approach that of the Old Firm.
The current Aberdeen F.C. was formed following the merger of three city clubs; Aberdeen, Victoria United and Orion in 1903. The new club played its first match on 15 August 1903, a 1–1 draw with Stenhousemuir. That first season produced a win in the Aberdeenshire Cup, but only a third place finish in the Northern League. The club applied for membership of the Scottish League for the following season, and were elected to the Second Division, rather than the First.
In 1904, the club was managed by Jimmy Philip. At the end of that first season, despite having finished 7th out of 12 teams, Aberdeen were elected to the new, expanded First Division, and have been in the top tier of Scottish football ever since, a record shared with only Celtic and Rangers. From 1906, the club made steady progress, with a Scottish Cup semi-final appearance in 1908 and another in 1911. In that season of 1910–11, Aberdeen recorded their first victories over the Old Firm, and led the league for a time, but finished the season in second place.
Wartime affected the club as much as any other. Despite spending cuts and other economies, by 1917 the situation became untenable. Aberdeen dropped out of competitive football, along with Dundee and Raith Rovers. Senior football returned on 16 August 1919, and Aberdeen resumed with a fixture against Albion Rovers. Philip was still in charge, and continued to oversee a team capable of isolated good results, but never quite able to sustain a challenge long enough to win a trophy. In 1923, Aberdeen were drawn against Peterhead in the Scottish Cup, and posted their record score—a 13–0 victory. Philip retired a year later, and was replaced as manager by Paddy Travers. He presided over the team's first Scottish Cup final in 1937.
Travers' trainer (first team coach in modern parlance) was former player Donald Colman. Colman was regarded as a brilliant and innovative thinker about football, and conceived the dug-out, a covered area set slightly below the level of the playing surface to better aid his observations. Everton visited Pittodrie soon after its introduction, and exported the idea to the English leagues, from where it spread throughout the football-playing world. Travers left to become manager of Clyde in 1939, and was replaced by Dave Halliday.
Halliday went to his ex club Queen of the South to sign inside forward George Hamilton. This would be as shrewd a signing as Halliday would ever make. However Halliday had barely begun his work when the Second World War halted competitive football in the United Kingdom.
Halliday left at the end of that championship-winning season, to be replaced by Davie Shaw. Aberdeen won the League Cup under his guidance, beating St Mirren in 1955–56, and reached another Scottish Cup final in 1959. However, Shaw stepped aside for another former favourite player, Tommy Pearson in 1959. Pearson's time in charge coincided with a high turnover of players, and yielded no trophies. He retired in 1965, making way for Eddie Turnbull. Turnbull led Aberdeen to two Scottish Cup finals against Celtic, losing in 1967, but gaining revenge three years later.
Aberdeen first played in Europe in the 1967–68 Cup Winner's Cup, qualifying as runners-up to Celtic in the Scottish Cup final. Their first tie was a 14–1 aggregate victory over KR Reykjavik, although they lost the second round tie with Standard Liège 3–2 on aggregate. As Scottish Cup holders in 1970–71, Aberdeen once again qualified for the same competition, but were eliminated in the first round following a 4–4 aggregate tie with Honvéd. This tie, level after extra time and also level on away goals, was decided by the first penalty shootout in UEFA competition history, Honvéd winning the shootout 5–4 in Budapest.
The Aberdeen side of the 1970s regularly challenged for domestic honours. However, they rarely won trophies, with the exception of the League Cup in 1976, under Ally MacLeod. During this decade, Aberdeen had five managers, Eddie Turnbull, Jimmy Bonthrone, Ally MacLeod, Billy McNeill and Alex Ferguson. They reached two more national cup finals—the Scottish Cup in 1978 under Billy McNeill and the League Cup in the following season under the new manager Alex Ferguson.
Under Alex Ferguson's guidance, the club won three league championships, four Scottish Cups, the European Cup Winner's Cup, the European Super Cup and a League Cup—all in the space of seven years.
Under Ferguson's guidance, players such as Jim Leighton, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan became the backbone of the team. Aberdeen's second League title was won in 1979–80, and this initial success was built on, with Scottish Cup wins in three successive seasons from 1982 to 1984, and two more league titles in 1983–84 and 1984–85.
In the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1983 Aberdeen beat FC Sion, Dinamo Tirana and Lech Poznań to face German champions Bayern München. This game was won 3–2 at Pittodrie after a goalless draw in Germany, John Hewitt with the winning goal. They then faced now defunct Belgian club Waterschei in the semi-final. Aberdeen beat them 5–1 at home, and lost for the first time in the tournament, 1–0 away, resulting in an aggregate victory which sent Aberdeen to the final. A 2–1 victory over Real Madrid on 11 May 1983, meant Aberdeen won the cup, becoming only the third Scottish side to win a European trophy. The club released a song, European Song, to coincide with the appearance in the Final. This was followed up with the capture of the European Super Cup in December of that year, when SV Hamburg were beaten over two legs. Aberdeen remain the only Scottish club to have won two European trophies.
Aberdeen signed new co–managers in 1989, pairing Alex Smith and Jocky Scott. In the 1990–91 they lost the last game of the season, and the league title, to Rangers. Willie Miller took over in 1992 and presided over two seasons where Rangers were run close. However, he was sacked in 1995 after a bad season, and the club had to rely on a play-off victory over Dunfermline Athletic to retain their Premier League status. Aberdeen replaced him with Roy Aitken. Despite a League Cup win against Dundee in 1995–96, the club continued to struggle. Alex Miller and Paul Hegarty had spells in charge in the late 1990s, but with the financial burden of a new stand putting the club into debt for the first time in its history, the directors turned to Stewart Milne, a local businessman whose firm had built the stand, to bring business acumen to the running of the club.
Aberdeen's first non-Scottish manager, Ebbe Skovdahl, was appointed in 1999, and his time in charge coincided with some of the heaviest defeats in the club's history. His replacement, Steve Paterson, lasted only two seasons. Jimmy Calderwood took over in 2004, and Aberdeen have since posted more consistent results than in previous seasons. In season 2006–07, the club finished in third place in the league and thus qualified for the 2007–08 UEFA Cup. In this cup the next season, Aberdeen defeated Dnipro on the away goals rule in the UEFA Cup, the first time the club had won on the away goals rule in 40 years of European football. They went on to beat FC København 4–0, which was the biggest margin of victory and one of Pittodrie's biggest crowds since the 80s. This set up a meeting with German club Bayern München, which they lost 7–3 on aggregate. after a very respectable 2-2 draw, which seen Aberdeen lead Bayern twice, at Pittodrie in the first leg.
For the 1904–05 season, Aberdeen adopted a black and gold striped shirt, which led to the team being nicknamed "Wasps". This strip, with only minor variations, was worn until just before the start of the Second World War. The blue shorts lasted until 1911, and then were replaced with white ones. Socks were black with gold trim, either as stripes or as a solid bar at the turndown.
In March 1939, Aberdeen changed the black and gold colours to red and white, reflecting the silver and red colours of the official City of Aberdeen arms. The first red strips were worn with white shorts, these were worn with either red or white socks from 1939 until the 1965–66 season. In 1966, Aberdeen adopted red shorts, making the official kit all-red, similar to that of Liverpool, who made a similar change at around the same time. This arrangement has continued to the present day, with several variations in design, in common with most senior clubs as the replica shirt market has expanded. In the late 1970s an Admiral strip featured five vertical white stripes on the left side of the shirt and shorts, and the early 1980s shirts—as worn at the 1983 European Cup Winners Cup final—featured white vertical pinstripes. Later design changes included significant amounts of blue, and a one season reversion to white shorts, although the all-red scheme returned in 1997.
Shirt sponsorship began in 1987, and the initial shirt sponsor was JVC. Since then, with the club making fewer appearances on the international stage, shirt sponsors have tended to be more local—they have included one of the local commercial radio stations, Northsound. Aberdeen last season had announced their intention to move away from local sponsorship. Sponsored by Apex Tubulars at the time, that deal ended at the end of the 2007/08 season. In a turnaround though, Aberdeen FC Managing Director, Duncan Fraser, announced the side would bare the name of local company Team Recruitment on their shirts for the next two seasons. It is believed no international sponsor showed interest.
Change, or "away", strips have tended to be either white, often with black shorts, or a combination of yellow and black, referring back to the black and gold strips of the pre-war era, although for a time in the 1970s, Aberdeen sported an all-blue change strip with white socks. For the 2007–08 season, the change strip is all-white, with a third kit of yellow and black halves available if needed for European games, or in the event of a clash involving both red and white.
The club did not have an official crest before 1972, but several variations on the letters AFC had from time to time featured on the shirt, usually in some kind of cursive font. In November 1972, the club unveiled an official crest or logo, designed by Aberdonian graphic designer Donald Addison. The design represented a capital letter A as the side view of a football goal, with a ball forming the crossbar of the letter. This ball was crosshatched in such a way as to depict it as being inside the net, signifying the scoring of a goal. The logo was completed by the letters FC in smaller type at a level with the ball element. This badge was used on the shirts from around 1978, with no significant alterations until the mid-1980s when the words "Aberdeen Football Club" were added in a circular border, and the date of the club's founding, 1903, was added under the goal element. The current version of the crest, which retains these elements in a unified design, was introduced at the start of the 1997–98 season. Two stars signifying the winning of the two European cups in 1983 were introduced over the badge in the 2005–06 season.
Aberdeen have played at Pittodrie Stadium, the name of which comes from the Pictish for "place of manure", throughout their existence. The ground was first used by the original Aberdeen F.C. in 1899, in a 7–1 win over Dumbarton; when they merged with two other teams in 1903, the new club took over the old Aberdeen ground. On 15 August 1903, 8,000 spectators turned up to watch the new Aberdeen draw 1-1 against Stenhousemuir, the first game played at Pittodrie by its amalgamated tenants. The club initially rented the ground, but subsequently bought it in 1920. The stadium contains 21,600 seats, but due to the directors' boxes, some sources place this figure at 22,000. The record attendance occurred on 13 March 1954, when 45,061 spectators turned up for a Scottish Cup match between Aberdeen and Hearts.
The stadium consists of four stands. The Main Stand, which houses the club offices and players facilities, holds the majority of the supporters. The Merkland Road Stand is primarily for families. The South Stand is opposite the main stand and a quarter of this section is used to accommodate travelling supporters, except for Old Firm games, where half of this stand is given to the visiting fans. The newest element is the Richard Donald stand at the East, or Beach End, of the ground, and is named after former chairman Dick Donald. This is a modern, two–tier design, completed in 1993, containing hospitality suites which is significantly taller than the other structures at the ground. In 1978, Pittodrie became the first all covered, all-seater stadium in Britain.
The club are examining a move to a New Aberdeen Stadium.
Aberdeen's supporters, known as the Red Army are listed in the team squad list as wearing the number 12 shirt—a reference to the supporters being the "12th man". In 1999, a group of supporters founded the Red Ultras supporters club with the express aim of improving the atmosphere at Pittodrie. The club's supporters had a reputation as being undemonstrative, even during the periods of success: Alex Ferguson having once remarked that
The group have organised coordinated displays and enormous flags and banners, particularly in the Richard Donald stand at home games, but also on occasion at away games. The group share a name with many Ultras groups elsewhere in the world, but disassociate themselves from any elements of hooliganism.
Aberdeen are the only senior team in the third largest city in Scotland—a city which is relatively remote, geographically, from other large population centres—and as a result have a large catchment area of potential supporters. However, attendances in recent years have not reflected this situation, with the club having the fifth largest average attendance in the SPL in 2006–07, with 11,980. Important games still see Pittodrie sold out.
In the 1980s, a minority of the club's supporters had a reputation as one of Britain's most prominent casuals groups. The rise of the Aberdeen Casuals coincided with the most successful period in the club's history, and has been chronicled in more than one published account.
Aberdeen have rarely played in the same division as their geographically closest rivals: Peterhead, Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath and Forfar, so rivalries have tended to come from further afield. In the early 1980s, owing to the success both domestically and in Europe of Aberdeen and Dundee United, the pair were known as the New Firm; however, Dundee United have their city neighbours Dundee as close rivals, and the antagonism was not always reciprocated to the same degree. The same situation applies to Aberdeen's rivalry with Rangers, in that Rangers have their own much older and well-known rivalry with Celtic, but there is a genuinely strong antagonistic feeling between both sets of supporters, and there have been a number of incidents arising from this.
Aberdeen are known as "The Dons", a name that has been in use since at least 1913. The story that the nickname arose from the involvement of schoolmasters in the foundation of the club has no documented source, and it seems much more likely that the name is a contraction of Aberdonians, the correct term for people from Aberdeen. Before the popular adoption of "The Dons", the team were variously known as "The Wasps" or "The Black and Golds"; both names a reference to the yellow and black striped shirts of the time.
As with many teams that play in red, Aberdeen may also be called "The Reds" from time to time. They are referred to by some supporters as "The Dandy Dons" or "The Dandies".