Aberdeen v Rangers: History of rivalry before Sunday’s clash

Pedro Caixinha has warned his players its win or bust on Sunday
Pedro Caixinha has warned his players its win or bust on Sunday
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Outside of the traditional derbies, there aren’t many games in Scottish football as big as Aberdeen v Rangers, especially when there’s something at stake.

This week’s match at Pittodrie is arguably the biggest in recent memory, with Aberdeen looking to put their second place finish in the SPFL beyond doubt.

Andy Considine celebrates completing his hat-trick. Pic: SNS/

Andy Considine celebrates completing his hat-trick. Pic: SNS/

Few matches with teams so geographically far apart stir up such passion and excitement as the clashes between Aberdeen and Rangers.

Derek McIness has kept the same core of his team since Rangers’ departure from the top league to firmly establish themselves as the second force in Scottish football.

READ MORE: Gers adrift of Aberdeen

While there have been disappointments for Aberdeen fans in that time, like not making an impact in the Scottish Cup and not pushing Celtic for the title, they have won a League Cup while Rangers came through the lower leagues.

Pedro Caixinha has told his Rangers charges that they can forget about second place if they fail to beat Aberdeen on Sunday, and with the Dons 12 points clear, that’s hard to argue with.

With some of the more optimistic Rangers fans hoping before the season started for a challenge to Celtic’s league dominance, a third place finish would be a bitter disappointment.

So we look ahead to the massive clash by recapping how the rivalry became so fierce, and recapping some of the more notable matches between the two.

Potted history

Former Rangers boss Mark Warburton admitted to journalists that he didn’t know where the bitter rivalry between the two clubs came from.

“I keep hearing about the hatred,” Warburton said last year, “But its just football we’re talking about at the end of the day.”

Many trace the recent animosity between the two clubs back to a series of heated games in the 1980s, when a certain Alex Ferguson was in charge at Pittodrie.

READ MORE: Caixinha wants Pittodrie result

The future Man United legend threatened to undermine the traditional Old Firm dominance in Scottish football.

Aberdeen’s Ferguson-inspired league triumph of the 1979-80 season was the first time in over 15 years that the top division had been won by a team other than Celtic or Rangers.

European and further league success followed as Ferguson left an indelible mark on Scottish football, and Rangers may have been understandably bitter at the achievements of their former player.

Crowd issues

Some of the animosity can be traced perhaps to fan behaviour when stewarding and policing at football wasn’t quite as robust.

A 1-1 draw at Pittodrie in 1987 saw the Ibrox side clinch the Premier League title, despite hero Graeme Souness being sent for an early bath.

It was the first win in nearly a decade for Rangers, and marked the start of their dominance of Scottish football through the late 80s and early 90s.

Fans of Rangers invaded the pitch at full-time, much to the chagrin of their rivals, who had saw Ferguson depart for Manchester United.

There were ugly scenes at that same ground in 2002 when Robbie Winters of Aberdeen was struck by a coin thrown by Rangers fans, and supporters of both sides clashes.

The game was posted for 20 minutes as dozens of police officers in riot gear had to quell the disturbances.

Bad tackles and phantom headbutts

Whatever the reason, some of those games in the 80s were meaningful and as tasty as any match between the bitterest of rivals.

That doesn’t perhaps do justice to some of the shocking tackles that have gone into footballing folklore as some of the worst crimes against joints and ligaments ever committed on the field of play.

Neil Simpson almost ended the fledgling career of Ian Durrant with one such lunge, the Dons man shattering the cruciate ligaments of the Ibrox legend and leaving him out of action for more than two years.

That came just a few short years after the shameful actions of Willie Johnston, who stamped on the head of Aberdeen’s John McMaster.

The Dons player needed the kiss of life on the pitch, with Johnston claiming that he though McMaster was team-mate Willie Miller.

Arguably as controversial as the fouls that did happen is one that didn’t.

In 2009, Rangers beat Aberdeen 2-1 at Ibrox after Charlie Mulgrew, then at the Dons, was sent off following an altercation with Kyle Lafferty.

The duo went head to head following a challenge, but despite no contact being made by Mulgrew, Lafferty fell dramatically to the ground, clutching his face in apparent agony.

Lafferty’s play acting convinced Stuart Dougal to show the red card, and the controversy even led him to retire from refereeing early.

Lafferty was fined by Rangers and punished by the SFA, with the comical video footage entering into folklore.

It has left a bitter taste with Aberdeen fans though, and is just one of the reasons there is often an edge to clashes like the one coming up on Sunday.