ABERDEEN have agreed to recognise the outstanding contribution Neil Simpson has made to the club by awarding the former player, and current head of their youth academy, a benefit match.
The announcement was made at the Player of the Year dinner in the city on Sunday night when Simpson was presented with a special Lifetime Achievement Award for his services.
Central defender Andrew Considine may have been the deserved recipient of the Player of the Year title but the recognition afforded the man affectionately know as ‘Simmie’ drew the warmest response of the evening.
Of course, that affection is not shared by Rangers supporters whose entire opinion of Simpson was indelibly shaped by the tackle on Ian Durrant during the 1988/89 season that effectively ruined the midfielder’s career.
That ended in an out-of-court settlement for damages a few years later but the repercussions have lingered long in the poisonous atmosphere and troubled history surrounding the fixture ever since.
Some have even suggested that it provided some of the motive for the Aberdeen fans’ petitions and banners calling for Simpson to be given the recognition that has now been agreed.
That has been strongly denied by Dons supporters and, indeed, would be to denigrate the career of a man who deserves to be remembered for so much more than one incident and who continues to contribute to the club in a meaningful manner.
After all, it’s 11 years since Simpson returned to Pittodrie in a coaching capacity in the vital role of youth development which has helped produce the likes of Fraser Fyvie, Peter Pawlett and Clark Robertson for the current first team.
Jack Grimmer would have been added to that list had he not chosen to leave for Fulham earlier this season but that deal still netted more in fees than the sale of captain Richard Foster to Bristol City.
Now a new training complex at Cove is planned to allow that work to continue and improve but it will take a special graduate to improve on Simpson’s impressive playing career.
The product of the Pittodrie youth scheme was a vital member of Alex Ferguson’s astonishing team, winning two Premier Division titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup.
Then, of course, there was the glory of Gothenburg, with Simpson scoring one of the goals in the quarter-final defeat of Bayern Munich on route to the Cup Winners’ Cup triumph over Real Madrid in 1983.
Just for good measure he scored in the victory over Hamburg that leaves Aberdeen as Scotland’s only winners of the European Super Cup.
It somehow seems appropriate that the benefit match for Simpson will take place next season when suitable opposition can be found as it will be the 30th anniversary of Gothenburg.
Certainly the move is hugely popular with supporters, even those whose commitment to the club has wavered during the testing times of the last few seasons which has seen diminishing attendances and diminishing expectations.
For example, Alan Duncan used to be the very vocal mouthpiece of the Association of Aberdeen Supporters Clubs but is now no longer even a season ticket holder at Pittodrie.
Despite that, he said: “The club do deserve credit for recognising what Simmie has done for them both in the Eighties as a player and now in bringing through young players.
“The problem is there have been too many mediocrities involved with Aberdeen in recent years but the supporters will have no qualms about giving something back to someone who has given so much.
“He was a great player who helped bring a lot of success to Aberdeen and is developing young players who can hopefully give us a good future as well because we are going nowhere right now.”
Simpson, whose own career was cut short by injury, has been understandably reluctant to speak much in public since the Durrant incident but is genuinely touched by news of the testimonial and of Sunday’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
He said: “I am delighted the club have chosen to honour me in this way. I really couldn’t be happier and appreciate the efforts of the fans who helped to make this happen.
“The award came right out of the blue, never mind the news that a game was also going to be held in my honour but it’s really all about the players, especially the younger ones at the club.”