They still talk about the days of Sir Alex Ferguson at Pittodrie. And with good reason. Before his name had even been uttered in the corridors of Old Trafford, Ferguson turned Aberdeen into a dominant force both in Scotland and on the continent. The 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup win over Real Madrid in Gothenburg remains the club’s greatest ever triumph.
It’s 33 years since Aberdeen last won the Scottish league title, though. 33 years since someone other than Celtic or Rangers lifted the top-flight trophy. This stretch illustrates the gulf that has opened up between Glasgow’s big two clubs and the rest at the top of the Scottish game and there’s no real sign of it being bridged any time soon.
Well, that was before the events of last month at Aberdeen. A new era has dawned at Pittodrie with US-based businessman Dave Cormack taking over from Stewart Milne as club chairman and a new partnership with MLS side Atlanta United also agreed. This will give the Dons a new direction and maybe most importantly fresh investment.
“The new investment and this partnership with Atlanta will allow us to punch above our weight, aspiring to attain UEFA top 100 status and to trying to level the playing field against significantly higher income generated by Celtic and Rangers,” Cormack explained at a press conference.
That last part is most interesting. Last month saw Aberdeen open a new training ground with their new stadium set to be completed next year. All this, coupled with the investment from Atlanta United, is designed to herald a new age of success for the club. The ultimate aim must be to draw in Celtic and Rangers at one point in the not so distant future.
As things stand, Aberdeen’s annual turnover is four times less than that of Rangers and it is dwarfed by that of Celtic. While the Dons will welcome fresh investment, they aren’t about to turn into a Scottish Manchester City or PSG. They must use the money invested by Cormack and Atlanta United shrewdly, perhaps to establish a more fruitful youth academy.
The £12 million training ground and £50 million soon-to-be-opened stadium symbolise Aberdeen’s commitment to one day catching Celtic and Rangers at the top of Scottish football. But it will take a lot more than some new pitches and dressing rooms for that gap to be bridged. Decades of footballing inequality have taken their toll, even on a club with the pedigree of the Dons.