‘Aberdeen can surpass class of ‘91 with title’

Rangers' Mark Hateley ends Aberdeen's title dream in 1991 as Dons player Stephen Wright shows his despair. Photograph: SNS
Rangers' Mark Hateley ends Aberdeen's title dream in 1991 as Dons player Stephen Wright shows his despair. Photograph: SNS
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SCOTT Booth believes there are many similarities between the current Aberdeen side and the predecessors who ran Rangers so close to the league title in 1991.

But while he would love to see them emulate the impressive run of results he and his team-mates racked up as they took that title race to the very last day of the season, he hopes they can deviate when matters reach their denouement.

Under Alex Smith and Jocky Scott, the Pittodrie side of old went on a run of wining 12 out of 13 games as they threatened to break the Old Firm hold on the top honour. But, heading into that final game – a do or die affair with the Ibrox side – they sat top of the table on goal difference.

“What I like about this current side is that they keep being aggressive, they keep attacking even when they have had to bounce back from negative or poor results. Like us they are living in the moment, they have a fairly young side, with a few experienced players and they have a good spirit and understanding that has been built up over time and they have a goalscoring threat, which we always had.

“They play their own game and we did that. Right up to that final day. If they can take it that far I hope they keep doing that.”

Whether fear took hold or they simply let the occasion or the opposition get the better of them, the 1991 team shed the gameplan that had taken them to the brink and paid the price.

Rangers won the match courtesy of two Mark Hateley goals and snatched the title that allowed them to eventually amass nine consecutive titles. It also led to the break-up of the managerial partnership.

“There was a bit of fall-out because of the decision that was made to change the system. We had been playing 4-3-3 but we were more defensive in our approach on the final day and I’m confident that we could have got all the points if we have approached it the same way as the previous matches. The fallout between Alex and Jocky rumbled on for years and it was probably only two or three years later that we looked back on it and realised just how big a missed opportunity it was.

“What I remember most is the noise. The noise and the disappointment. It was the biggest game I had ever been involved in but I started on the bench. I hadn’t expected that because of the way I had been playing in the 12 or 13 games leading up to it but they changed the system. I still wanted to win the game.

“I would say to the Aberdeen players who have done so well to get themselves into this position that they should be focused on what their goal has been from the start of the season and stick with the style of football that has got them this far. They have been dynamic and full of energy and they have a will to win and they need to stay true to that on every game and hopefully they can go on a run like we did. If they can do that they won’t be too far away come the end of the season.”

That kind of consistency and point accumulation would place some pressure on Celtic, who Booth acknowledges have benefitted from the ability to buy up in-form players and cherry-pick some of the best Scottish talent.

“It must be frustrating and it does make things more difficult for the other teams but it shows just how good a job Derek [McInnes, the Aberdeen manager] has done. He has put together a very strong squad and one with great spirit and unity. It helps that they have been able to keep a number of the players together and maybe just add on two or three at a time. That helps them cope with the pressure and expectations better because they have built up a good understanding.”

But with Celtic winning yesterday to open a slight gap, Aberdeen need to make the most of their qualities when they face Hamilton today and set out to try to keep the title battle tight and extend the Pittodrie hopes of ending the Old Firm monopoly on the Premier League title.

“I think they have kept their focus well so far but this is a crucial stage of the season. But Derek has picked players very, very well. They are players who want to win games. They take things game by game and they have not been distracted by others so far.”

The spotlight is on the top two but Booth says it is the way that Aberdeen have handled the head to heads with other teams which afforded them the opportunity to push the defending champions.

“There are other quality teams but they have stuck to their task well. They need to keep doing that.”

But Booth believes that lessons can be learned and if they can hold their nerve and get to the final day, he just hopes they will stay true to themselves and the style that has served them so well this season.