Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here
Nickname: The Dons
Ground: Pittodrie Stadium
Stadium Capacity: 21,421
Song: The Northern Lights of Aberdeen
In 1983, Bayern Munich had a team filled with legendary players: Breitner, Augenthaler, Hoeness, and Rummenigge. Names that were as well known then as BMW or Audi today.
Aberdeen had Mark McGhee. When he walked into a room, even his wife asked, “who are you, and why are you in my kitchen?”
When Aberdeen met Bayern Munich in the 1983 European Cup Winner’s Cup quarter-final, it should have been no contest; Bayern would win. But, after drawing the first leg in Munich 0 – 0, Pittodrie’s greatest night followed.
Bayern scored first, then Aberdeen equalised. Bayern scored again, but a well-practiced free-kick led to Alex McLeish drawing Aberdeen level. One minute later, striker John Hewitt added a third. Despite late pressure, Aberdeen held on and won the game 3 – 2.
As the referee blew the final whistle, Alex Ferguson leapt from the dugout to run onto the pitch. It was a legendary night for a legendary manager – and one followed a few months later when Aberdeen won the European Cup Winner’s Cup final 2 – 1 against Real Madrid. A victory soundtracked by the European Song – a record so popular that an initial run of 100,000 copies sold out, and more copies had to be issued to satisfy demand.
The European Song wasn’t the cup final’s only musical legacy. The final was one of the first matches where fans could be heard singing a chant that would dominate Eighties football:
“Here we, here we, here we f*****g go!“
Despite his success, Sir Alex, as he would become known, is only the second most famous man to have worked at Aberdeen. We’d argue the most famous Aberdonian is former coach Donald Colman. Who, you may ask?
In the 1930s, Donald Colman had a successful career with Motherwell and Aberdeen, where he was appointed club captain and capped by Scotland three times. However, it was his post-playing career that saw him achieve football immortality
Colman loved feet, but not in a kinky way. When appointed as a coach, he persuaded the club to dig a hole at the side of the pitch. Colman would stand in it and have his head level with the player’s feet. Donald believed players needed to work constantly on their footwork, which he could see far better from his vantage point below pitch level.
When English club Everton visited Aberdeen a few years later, it saw Donald’s ‘dugout’ and created its own at Goodison. Soon every club followed until we have the airport lounge/dugout for today’s modern pampered footballer.
If standing up was Donald’s obsession, he would have been proud that fans have adopted a chant called Stand Free.
“Stand free wherever you may be,
We are the famous Aberdeen,
We don’t give a f**k
whoever you may be,
We are the famous Aberdeen.“
The tune is from the Lord of the Dance and is shared with other clubs, including Hibernian (We Are Hibernian FC) and St Mirren (We’ll Go Wherever St Mirren Go). If you want a song just for Aberdeen, then you need to meet Mary Webb. But, again, you may ask, who?
Mrs. Webb was the co-songwriter behind Aberdeen’s anthem, The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen, a song played by the club and by the city. Yet when Mrs. Webb died, nobody mentioned her passing. She was forgotten, even though her song had become the unofficial anthem of Aberdeen.
Mary and her husband William wrote the song in the 1950s to cheer up a homesick colleague. Mary worked in London and thought the song would help a friend, Winnie Forgie. It did, and it helped thousands more. Including, as Aberdeen’s Evening Express reported in March 2019, providing comfort to sailors fighting in the Falklands conflict. One letter from a sailor to Mary said:
“We are a Scottish ship, and on the evening, we were all clustered on the front end of the ship under the cold skies of San Carlos Water, waiting for the bomb to be defused, the Captain said ‘Sing!’ So we sang, and the first song that came to the lips of the most vocal member of the Ship’s company was your song, and of course everybody joined in, and it made us all feel better. “
This is the perfect song to remind us how important the sound of football is to fans. Of course, not every club wins a league or wins a cup. Not every club can be a success. But still, the fans sing, whether winning or losing, and all they can ask is for a song that makes them feel better.
Today, the Northern Lights of Aberdeen can be heard regularly at Pittodrie – along with a few other words that we have had hide with asterisks.
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