Angry silence

Keith Davidson reports on bad behaviour by Aberdeen fans who were nonetheless demonised by the Glasgow-based papers

George Young died on 10 January. In the 1940s and 1950s, he was a major figure – Rangers and Scotland captain and one of the few Scottish internationalists from before the modern era to represent his country more than 50 times. The powers that be at Ibrox decided to hold a minute’s silence at the very next home game as a mark of respect – which happened to be a Premier Division fixture against Aberdeen.

The official version of what then happened was sprawled all over the Scottish media for days. David McCarthy of the Daily Record wrote: “The visiting crowd of around 1,000 booed, jeered and chanted songs as the two sets of players – wearing black armbands – stood with their heads bowed in the middle of the park.”

The Scottish edition of the Sun led with Ewe morons! on its front page and said the visiting support sang, “We’re sheep-shagging bastards.” The Scotsman splashed Smith slams boors across the front of its sports section – Walter Smith was quoted as saying it was “the saddest moment I have ever known in my time in the game”.

To its credit, Aberdeen FC acted well in all this. The directors marshalled their thoughts, came out the next day and condemned the behaviour of a minority, launched an investigation and subsequently handed out 12 life bans from Pittodrie. Yes, 12 life bans as opposed to the press version of 1,000 booing and jeering morons. Some discrepancy? If you want to know what really happened, ask someone who was there.

From eyewitness Aberdeen supporters, it seems there was some initial exchange between rival fans over an Aberdeen flag as the referee signalled the start of the silence. This escalated until around 20 Dons followers started singing, “We’re only sheep-shagging bastards,” and then a tasteless little number about the Ibrox disaster. No excuses are being offered – it was unforgivable behaviour. Much of the noise generated came from both Aberdeen and Rangers fans telling the few to shut up – and from other Aberdeen latecomers who wandered in singing, unaware that the minute’s silence was actually happening.

Aberdeen supporters in general feel the banned dozen got what they deserved. But there’s also anger at the corpulent Glasgow press corps demonizing us all out of hand, again, while operating a set of double standards so far apart that the gap could accommodate Kenny Dalglish’s salary.

Did we read about the Aberdeen supporters’ bus that got stoned on the way north in Cambuslang that day? No. Did the Sun label Rangers supporters as morons when they disrupted a minute’s silence at Pittodrie for Sir Matt Busby a couple of years back? As if.

And given the litany of late-night kebab shop brawls, wife-beating incidents and sectarian singing in pubs that Rangers players lay claim to, it was also a bit rich for Walter Smith to say a few daft Aberdonians singing at Ibrox was the worst thing ever. (Incidentally, Walter, the Aberdeen fans were banned for life and deserved to be – when Gazza beat the crap out of Sheryl he got counselling.)

No surprise it was down to Tam Dalyell MP, writing in the London-based Independent, to reveal that George Young was denied a testimonial at Ibrox because of petty spite on the part of the then Rangers manager Willie Waddell. The fact that Young was shabbily treated by his own club was conveniently glossed over in Scotland, while the likes of Ken Gallacher painted anyone in a red and white scarf as the devil’s spawn.

Conclusion? The McMedia is Glasgow-centric, panders to the Old Firm and if there is a systematic bias in the game, it has nothing to do with Tommy Burns and Masonic linesmen. Ask someone from the North East.

From WSC 121 March 1997. What was happening this month