Gothenburg Greats: Aberdeen's European heroes
Aberdeen, Gothenburg Greats, football

Gothenburg Greats: Aberdeen’s European heroes

Aberdeen celebrate the 40th anniversary of their European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph over Real Madrid on Thursday.

The club and city council are honouring the players, who will be awarded the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen in a ceremony on Friday.

Here we look back at the ‘Gothenburg Greats’ – the 12 players who took to the field under Sir Alex Ferguson at the Ullevi Stadium to beat Madrid 2-1 after extra-time in 1983.

Jim Leighton – Followed Ferguson to Old Trafford in 1988 before ending his career at Pittodrie in 2000 following spells with Dundee and Hibernian. Scotland’s most-capped goalkeeper with 91 international appearances, he had two spells as Aberdeen goalkeeping coach before leaving football in 2015 to work in the oil and gas sector.

Jim Leighton, football

Doug Rougvie – The imposing full-back moved to Chelsea in 1984 and spent three years at Stamford Bridge. Rougvie, who won his sole Scotland cap against Northern Ireland in 1983, later played for Brighton, Fulham, Shrewsbury, Dunfermline and Montrose and managed the latter as well as Huntly and Cove Rangers. Rougvie’s departure from Cove in 1998 spelled the end of his football career and he became an engineer. Now retired, he splits his time between Scotland and Spain.

Alex McLeish – The centre-back spent all but a handful of games of his playing career with Aberdeen, with whom he won 12 major trophies. He joined Motherwell in 1994 as player-manager and later took charge of Hibernian, Rangers, Scotland twice, Birmingham, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Genk and Egyptian side Zamalek. His final managerial role ended with Scotland in 2019. He won eight major trophies, including the League Cup with Birmingham and two promotions as a manager. The 64-year-old appears as a TV pundit.

Willie Miller – The skipper had a long association with Aberdeen, managing them from 1992-95. Miller later joined the Pittodrie board and had a spell as director of football and has been a pundit with BBC Radio Scotland for a number of years.

Willie Miller, Aberdeen, football

John McMaster – The midfielder, who played left-back in Gothenburg, spent 15 years at Pittodrie before leaving in 1987 to play for home-town team Morton for the final year of his career. McMaster became assistant manager at the Greenock club and later scouted for the likes of Middlesbrough and Swansea. He worked in market research and now delivers corporate talks on leadership.

Gordon Strachan – Left for Manchester United in 1984 where he would later be reunited with Ferguson. Was football writers’ player of the year in both Scotland and England and won the league with Leeds before ending his playing days and starting his managerial career at Coventry. Took Southampton to the FA Cup final before a successful spell with Celtic and then managed Middlesbrough and Scotland. Now technical director at Dundee.

Neale Cooper – The only one of the Gothenburg Greats who is not still here for the 40th anniversary celebrations, Cooper died aged 54 in 2018 after a fall at a block of flats in Aberdeen. Just 19 when he won the European trophy, Cooper had made his debut in 1979 and went on to play for the likes of Aston Villa and Rangers before a second spell at Pittodrie. He was a popular manager at the likes of Ross County and Hartlepool. He later took up a corporate position with Aberdeen club sponsors Saltire Energy.

Neil Simpson – A key player for the Dons until a series of injuries hampered his progress. He left the Dons in 1990 and had spells at Newcastle and Motherwell but could not recapture his form. The midfielder took up coaching after retiring and returned to Aberdeen in the youth set-up in 2001, where he remains to this day as pathways manager.

Peter Weir – Ferguson went back to former club St Mirren to sign the talented winger, who later played for Leicester and then the Paisley club again before finishing his career with Ayr. Weir went into coaching and spent 10 years in charge of Aberdeen’s youth academy centre in Glasgow.

Mark McGhee – Another of the Gothenburg Greats who returned to Pittodrie, as manager in 2009, but the spell was not among his happier times in management. McGhee left the Dons for Hamburg in 1984 and also played for Newcastle, Celtic and Reading, where he made a flying start to his career as a boss. Also took charge of the likes of Wolves, Leicester, Brighton and Motherwell – and was Strachan’s assistant with Scotland – before ending his career with Dundee last year.

Mark McGhee, Gordon Strachan, football

Eric Black – The striker opened the scoring in the final and went on to play for Metz in France before a back injury forced him to retire at the age of 27. He was John Barnes’ assistant manager at Celtic and had spells in charge of Coventry and Motherwell, the latter ending when the club went into administration. He went back to being a coach under the likes of Steve Bruce with his clubs including Birmingham, Sunderland, Rotherham and Aston Villa. Black turned his back on football after leaving Southampton in 2017 and the 59-year-old now sells furniture with his son in Leamington Spa.

John Hewitt – The attacker had already been branded ‘super sub’ for his goals off the bench during Aberdeen’s run to Gothenburg and he lived up to his nickname by heading an extra-time winner after replacing Black. Hewitt left for Celtic in 1989 and spent several years with St Mirren before a short spell in coaching as player/manager of Dundalk and Rougvie’s assistant manager at Cove. The 60-year-old now works in the oil and gas sector in Aberdeen and recovered from a heart attack earlier this year.

The unused substitutes were goalkeeper Bryan Gunn, injured full-back Stuart Kennedy and midfielders Andy Watson and Ian Angus.

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