ON THE LINE: Derek Whyte

MM: We’ve not been accustomed to seeing the Dons in the top half of the table in recent times. Have you turned the corner at last?

DW: There’s been a steady improvement. The manager came in, got rid of a few players and has gone for youth, which is great for the Scottish game. We’re not getting carried away. We’ve got 17 points. I joined the club in December 1997 and we didn’t have that many points in the week before Christmas. We’re settling into a good pattern. The young players are keen to prove themselves.

MM: What is Ebbe Skovdahl like to play for?

DW: The thing I like most about him is that whether things have gone well or badly, he is calm and relaxed. People think he is too laid back, but he does lose his rag at times, like anyone else. The difference is that he usually weighs things up before he lets off steam. He’s seen and done most things in the game and has a good idea of how football should be played.

MM: You supported Celtic as a boy. How did you come to leave?

DW: I left in the summer of 1992 when Liam Brady was manager. I’d come to the end of a contract and was offered a new deal. I’d been in the first team since making my debut at 17 in 1986 under Davie Hay. Brady had signed Gary Gillespie and Tony Mowbray and I knew what kind of money they were on. The deal offered to me wasn’t in the same league. I think they took me for granted because I’d come up through the ranks. I was a Scottish international and didn’t feel the offer was right. Middlesbrough had just been promoted for the first season in the Premiership. I went down and signed.

MM: What was it like leaving Celtic?

DW: I lived in the same street as Mark McGhee and our big brothers went to the games. Sometimes my brother took me along. It was a dream come true to play for Celtic and win titles and cups. It was all a bit sudden. I’ll always remember going in to pick up my boots and dropping them into a bin bag. I was 23. Neilly Mochan, the kit man at the time, was saying: "I can’t believe they’re letting you go." And that was it. I was sorry not to get the chance to say a farewell to the punters.

MM: What were the Middlesbrough years like?

DW: Fantastic. We had some great times. We had a few seasons in the Premiership. We went down but got promoted again and we made it to two Wembley cup finals. I played in the first match at the Riverside, the new stadium, and that was a great experience.

MM: What made you come back north?

DW: After we signed Gianluca Festa, I wasn’t always in the side and Alex Miller was in charge at Aberdeen. He knew me from the Scotland set-up and encouraged me to move. The carrot he dangled was the opportunity to get back into the Scotland reckoning for the 1998 World Cup. That sealed it and I did make the squad.

MM: Career highlights?

DW: Quite a few. Winning the league on the last day of my first season, the double in the centenary season, my Scotland debut at 19, which I think now is frightening, getting to the cup finals with Boro, although I didn’t play in them, and winning promotion.

MM: Lowest point?

DW: I can honestly say I’ve never felt worse than after the 6-1 thrashing at home to Livingston.

MM: Best players you’ve played with?

DW: At Celtic, Paul McStay, Roy Aitken, Mick McCarthy and Frank McAvennie, who was the best centre-forward I ever played with. At Boro, Juninho, Ravanelli and Nigel Pearson. We signed Juninho when he was 23 or 24 and the Brazilian player of the year. He cost more than 4m, which was a lot of money then. But his skills were amazing. The first training session after he joined us was the best I’ve ever had because everyone wanted to show him they could play a bit as well.

MM: How do you get away from football?

DW: I spend time with my wife and kids. My daughter is nearly 11 and my son’s eight. He plays a lot of football and I like to watch him. We holiday in Spain and we just like to relax together. My wife and I like to watch a film. I don’t play golf. I hate it.

MM: Who makes you laugh?

DW: Anton Rogan. During his spell at Celtic, he was just buzzing all the time. He loved coming in for training and was great to have around. He was also a better player than a lot of people gave him credit for. We’re still in touch. He’s a house-husband in Oxford at the moment.

MM: What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

DW: Happy times with my family, especially at Christmas. Waking up on Christmas mornings and playing football in the street. I often think of that because you never see it now.

MM: Your most embarrassing moment?

DW: The one that stands out was in my first season. I’d only played about 10 games and I was right in front of the Jungle when this ball came bobbing and spinning my way at an awkward height. An opponent was steaming in and I didn’t know whether to head it or knee it and in the end I tried to do both, missed the ball and kneed myself in the eye. I had a black eye for two weeks. When any of the young lads makes a mistake, I just tell them that story and say it happened in front of 30,000 or 40,000 fans so they should think themselves lucky.