Before the Old Firm sealed up the Scottish league for good, there was time for Aberdeen to take home the title as David Ogilvie recalls
The long-term significance
The end of an era. Aberdeen were the last side to wrest the title away from the Old Firm, but Graeme Souness’s momentous arrival at Ibrox was not far away and Alex Ferguson stayed just another season and a bit at Pittodrie before being tempted to Old Trafford. Twenty years ago, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hearts were all serious title contenders, but those days seem a lifetime away. Hearts mounted a decent challenge in 1997-98 but the Old Firm have not been split since 1994-95 when Motherwell and Hibs finished ahead of a sorry Celtic side but behind runaway champions Rangers.
Story of the season
Similar to the previous year, with Aberdeen leading the charge ahead of Celtic and Dundee United. The Dons won 15 of their first 17 games and never looked like being caught. Fired by the goals of Frank McDougall and Eric Black, Fergie’s men posted some memorable victories, not least the 5-1 spanking of Rangers in January. The championship was effectively clinched in a 1-1 draw at home to Celtic – Willie Miller equalised then set off on a celebratory run so long it almost took him to Norway. But the Dons were shocked in the League Cup by Airdrie and went out of the European Cup on penalties against Dynamo Berlin. Rangers finished a distant fourth in the table, ahead of St Mirren only on goal difference, and crowds at Ibrox dipped below 10,000 on more than one occasion. Dumbarton and the hapless Morton were relegated out of sight. There was some consolation for Celtic in the 100th Scottish Cup final as they hit back to beat Dundee United 2-1 while Rangers edged the same team to take the League Cup.
For the record books
Frank McDougall was the top scorer with 22 league goals, not enough for a Scotland cap in those heady days when the national team could actually qualify for major tournaments. Brian McClair, leading marksman the previous season, managed 19 goals for Celtic. In the Scottish Cup first round, Stirling Albion put 20 goals past non-league Selkirk – it remains the biggest win in British senior football since Preston beat Hyde 26-0 in 1887. Morton defender Jim Duffy was named player of the year by the Scottish PFA, not bad going considering his side conceded 100 Premier League goals and finished bottom of the pile.
Same place today
Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen have not been out of the top flight since 1984-85, although the last-named were saved once by themselves in a play-off and once by Falkirk’s lack of a decent stadium.
Moved furthest away
Dumbarton are currently a mediocre Division Two side. Morton are in the same league but will be looking for promotion after appointing Jim McInally as their new manager. St Mirren are doing surprisingly well in Division One, while the seven others are all in the SPL.
Went on to greater things
Alex Smith ~ The then Stirling boss guided St Mirren and Aberdeen to Scottish Cup glory. Now at Ross County.
Colin Hendry ~ The Dundee defender would amass 51 Scotland caps and win the 1995 Premiership title.
Bernie Slaven ~ Middlesbrough came calling after the striker battered in 27 goals for Albion Rovers in 1984-85.
Frank McAvennie ~ The St Mirren striker proved just as prolific with Celtic, West Ham and the burdz.
Gordon Durie ~ From Hibs to Chelsea, Spurs, Rangers and 43 Scotland caps.
Disappearing from view
League Cup qualifying groups ~ The new-look Skol Cup proved a big hit in the late 1980s.
Davie Provan ~ The Celtic winger, now a Sky pundit, barely played again due to the illness ME.
Jock Wallace ~ Though he survived as Gers manager until 1986, the League Cup win was his last trophy.
Cheap football ~ You could stand at Parkhead for £2 while a good pew in the all-seated Pittodrie was £2.50. Barely buys a programme now.
Hampden crowds ~ The 74,299 who watched the 3-1 sinking of Spain will never be bettered.
From WSC 215 January 2005. What was happening this month