Scottish Cup win will put Aberdeen on Europe map - Theo Snelders

Theo Snelders can hardly believe 27 years have elapsed since he helped Aberdeen to the last of their seven Scottish Cup Final victories but the Dutchman is convinced ending that long wait for an eighth next month would help make the club as attractive a prospect to players as it was to him back in 1988.

Dons' Theo Snelders and Brian Irvine, holding the trophy in 1990. Picture: Brian Stewart

That was the year he signed in a £300,000 deal from Twente Enschede, a sum more than current manager Derek McInnes has paid out on transfer fees in his four years at Pittodrie.

It was certainly money well spent for someone who helped the club to a League Cup and Scottish Cup double with victories over Rangers in the former and Celtic in the latter, which was settled by the first-ever penalty shoot-out in the final.

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Snelders’ penalty save from Anton Rogan set up Brian Irvine’s sudden-death winner in the dramatic 9-8 victory at Hampden Park for a team including fellow internationals such as Alex McLeish, Jim Bett, Charlie Nicholas, Stewart McKimmie and Hans 
Gillhaus.

Snelders admits he jumped at the chance to join Aberdeen because of the quality they could attract and their reputation right across Europe at that time and has been disappointed to see the way his old club have struggled for long spells since he left for Rangers in 1996.

The 53-year-old may be back living and coaching in Holland but he still closely monitors Scottish football, is encouraged by the Dons’ revival under Derek McInnes and sees signs of what attracted him in the first place which will only be enhanced by winning the Scottish Cup.

“It’s far too long for a club the size of Aberdeen not to have won the Scottish Cup. Hopefully, they can put that right this year,” said Snelders. “It’s great to see them doing so well again and a lot of the credit for that has to go to Derek McInnes.

“It would also be a great reward for the vision the club has shown and the structure that Derek has laid down since he came in to Pittodrie.

“He wanted to change things and he has certainly done that as they have already won a cup, are doing well in the league and playing regularly in Europe again.

“Winning the Scottish cup would be payback for the people standing behind the manager and trusting his vision for the club.

“That’s what they need again because when I was 24 I wanted to go abroad and you were flattered to know Aberdeen were interested in you.

“It was great to have the opportunity to play for a club challenging for honours and playing in Europe. They were a well-known team in Europe then. There was a lot of quality around and it was going to be a good step in your career.

“I think the way it has been in the past is coming back again. If clubs like Aberdeen are interested in a player, then that’s a club players will be interested in. Players will think, ‘If I go there I know for sure I can make another step up in my career’.”

The fact that Snelders became an Aberdeen legend was all the more impressive as he replaced Jim Leighton in the side.

Snelders went on to be voted Scotland’s Players’ Player of the Year in 1989 and made the Holland squad for the 1994 World Cup finals.

The only thing missing from his time at Aberdeen was a league winner’s medal but who knows what would have happened if injury hadn’t kept him out of the last-day title decider defeat at Ibrox in 1991?

However, it is that Scottish Cup Final win against Celtic that remains the highlight of his career, even if most non-Aberdeen fans forget the significant part he played in the game that day.

Generally, the first-ever penalty shootout in the final is remembered for Irvine’s winner and Rogan’s miss from the spot but Snelders insists: “That’s only the case outside of Aberdeen. I think in Aberdeen they know what the story is.

“It will be in my mind for the rest of my life. That save from Rogan, then winning the cup, was my best moment in football.I still get goosebumps when I think about that save.”

“Nowadays there is much more thought about how you are going to prepare for penalties but, in those days, all I had in my mind was he was left footed and he would shoot across his body as a defender rather than a technical player.

“Players usually shoot across their standing leg because, if you sidefoot the ball, you don’t get much pace on it. “Now they have video footage of the takers to look at and even analyse the goalkeeper from the opposition to see if he goes early or 
late. It’s certainly different times.

“I would love it if the Aberdeen players of today got the chance to know what it is like to win the Scottish Cup though. It would live with them for ever.”

l Theo Snelders was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud 
sponsor of the Scottish Cup.