The match Jimmy Calderwood has described as his Cup Final and the biggest of his career is now finally almost upon us as Aberdeen prepare to host Rangers in a match that will decide if the Dons have earned UEFA Cup qualification this season.
Jimmy Calderwood, ‘This is probably the biggest game in my managerial career – bigger than the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic when I was at Dunfermline.
unfermline were already qualified for Europe which was a wonderful back-up.
It was a great occasion for everyone at East End Park but the script was already written for Henrik Larsson.
Because of the expectation levels at Aberdeen this is a more important match. But this is the reason why Jimmy Nicholl and I came here.
I was in the city centre yesterday and the people of all ages were quite unbelievable about Sunday’s game.
You could see what it means to them and it means just as much to Jimmy and me.
The possibility of competing in the UEFA Cup is another huge incentive and if we get there the fans will expect us to win again – even if we’re drawn against Sevilla.’
Club captain Russell Anderson: – ‘At the start of the season I don’t think any of us would have expected to finish third. Everyone was expecting more from Hearts just judging on how they had done last season. So you knew you had a battle on your hands to try and finish above them and the Old Firm. The way Hearts had been spending money and taking in players you knew it would be difficult. But you always kind of thought there was a chance if we kept everybody fit and played the way we know we can, we could have a successful season but to finish third would definitely be classed as a successful season.’
Scott Severin: – ‘We have played them after disappointing results before but it looks as though Rangers have raised their game against us. We haven’t beaten them this season and Sunday would be a great time to do it.’
Aberdeen’s prize for victory is a place in the Uefa Cup next season. Severin tasted European football with Hearts and is eager to earn another ticket to continental competition.
He said: ‘It is still in our hands and we know what we have to do to qualify. It would be tough to lose out at this stage but we have to give Hearts credit. At one point we were seven points ahead of them and they’ve done well to peg it back and have won some huge games.’
In contrast, Aberdeen have stuttered in the closing weeks of the season, with five points from a possible 15 in the last five games. Despite the statistic Severin insists confidence is high in the Dons camp.
He added: ‘At Tynecastle a fortnight ago we played Hearts off the park and it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t taken anything from the game. A point was the least we deserved. Last week we played some of the best football we have all season against Celtic, but lost.
‘This weekend I don’t care if we play well or not as long as we get three points. The supporters won’t care how we get there as long as we do.’
oin Jess: – ‘This is the biggest match against Rangers for a few years as far as Aberdeen are concerned.
It’s really important they get back into Europe and that’s why Sunday is such a massive day for the club.
When I first got into the side it was us who were challenging Rangers for leagues and cups and that made these matches the biggest in the country.
This game is along those lines in terms of what it means to the club.
But I can’t believe it is 50 years since Aberdeen last didn’t take a point from the Old Firm over a season. There is no way the players will want to lose four matches to Celtic and Rangers in the same season.
That’s a real surprise to me because Aberdeen have had a good season in the SPL. It adds something else to the game.
Do I fancy Aberdeen to do it? Now that I know that record, probably not. But it’s a big game, it’s at Pittodrie and I know the fans really want to get into Europe and will get right behind them.’
ess enjoyed a mixture of good and bad times in games against Rangers but he won’t forget the nightmare when the clubs met in the final weekend of the 1991 league season.
e said: ‘We needed a point at Ibrox to win the league but Rangers beat us 2-0. That was the closest I ever got to winning the league and it really hurt. Still does.
I still think about that. I always think it was the one for us but it wasn’t to be.
The best game was the League Cup Final in 1989 when we beat Rangers 2-1. I was only 18 and hadn’t played often and we beat a really good side.’
Aberdeen fans loved European nights. The club should be challenging for Europe every season and I’m glad they are doing that again.’
Walter Smith: – ‘Gordon Strachan said Celtic were in testimonial mode two weeks ago and we were certainly that last Saturday. I hope it was a one-off.
Our approach in every game before that had been good but it wasn’t so clever against Kilmarnock and we have to make up for that.
It wasn’t so long ago that Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen were fighting for the European places.
We were fortunate to get ourselves into second place and we know how much it means to clubs to get there so we have a responsibility to make sure our attitude is better than last week.
We need to rediscover the competitive edge that was missing from our game against Kilmarnock.
Aberdeen have their own agenda as to what they need to take from this match and it is really a cup final type of game for them.
If we approach it in the same way as we did last week we will get beaten so it’s up to me to make sure that we are in the right frame of mind.
However, I’m sure my players will take pride in what they are doing and, as long as we find the competitive edge that was missing against Kilmarnock I will be happy, regardless of what the result is.’
‘We are thin on the ground again in terms of personnel but Andy Webster might make an appearance.
I don’t think he will be in the starting 11 but he could be on from the bench at some stage of the game.’
Aberdeen FC Team News:
Aberdeen are buoyed by the news that Jackie McNamara has signed up for next season but the rumours surrounding Russell Anderson’s will not abate; this time a rumoured £1 million bid from Middlesbrough is the latest effort at tempting Russ away from the club.
Player to watch: Barry Nicholson
The ex-Rangers man could be the difference between the clubs as he returns from suspension and back in the team after missing the Celtic defeat last week. Nicholson’s ability to get forward and create attacking moves will of course be instrumental but as he seems to be the only player at the club capable of converting a penalty, his inclusion is essential.
Rangers FC Team News:
A depleted Rangers squad will arrive at Pittodrie but those who are available will be keen to impress with the Ibrox exit door expected to see alot of action this summer.
alter Smith will be unable to include Brahim Hemdani, Dado Prso, Ugo Ehiogu, Filip Sebo, Thomas Buffel, Stevie Smith and possibly Andy Webster through injury.
Rangers Squad: – McGregor, Murray, Shinnie, Ehiogu, Weir, Papac, Ferguson, Burke, Thomson, Novo, Lennon, Boyd, Adam, Robinson, Svensson, Rae, McMillan, Sionko.
Player to watch: Allan McGregor
The young Rangers goalkeeper could be the difference between Aberdeen gaining a UEFA place or not. If he plays like Artur Boruc did last week, Dons fans better start hoping Jim Jeffries boys are turning his old club over.
Match Facts & Stats
Amazing Craig Thomson will be in charge for this game despite a publicised request by Aberdeen officials that he does not officiate any more Dons matches due to an apparent dislike he has which he demonstrates by victimising Aberdeen players more than their opposition.
End of Season……the Dons are of to Egypt but Vital Aberdeen will not be taking a break and we’ll bring you everything to do with the club right here on this site throughout the summer.