Old habits die hard as fans refuse to for­give and for­get

Ri­valry just as keen in the stands as Aberdeen and Rangers re­new hos­til­i­ties in the top flight


IT took less than a minute, just 24 sec­onds to be ex­act, for the fo­cus of the Aberdeen sup­port­ers to shift from the ac­tion on the field of play at Pit­to­drie to the vis­i­tors in the South Stand. “You’re not Rangers any more,” soon rang out around a ground which was packed to ca­pac­ity with 19,263 fans al­most as pro­ceed­ings got un­der way. And so it be­gan.

Aberdeen have, much to their an­noy­ance, watched the very pub­lic fall and sub­se­quent laboured rise of their de­tested Glas­gow ri­vals from afar for nearly five years now. There have been no cup or league en­coun­ters be­tween the two clubs dur­ing that spell.

They were, then, al­ways go­ing to use the first meet­ing with the Ibrox club since their fi­nan­cial melt­down to revel in the myr­iad off-field mis­for­tunes which have be­fallen their op­po­nents since 2012. And revel in them they did.

The stun­ning last-minute win­ner which sub­sti­tute James Mad­di­son whipped in was sweet for the mem­bers of the Red Army – and the fact their team had not de­served to be awarded the free kick which led to it sim­ply made them savour it all the more. Yet the pres­ence of their old ad­ver­saries at Pit­to­drie once again had been thor­oughly en­joyed through­out the 90 min­utes.

The ge­n­e­sis of the sim­mer­ing re­sent­ment that ex­ists be­tween Aberdeen and Rangers – an en­mity de­scribed by the lat­ter’s man­ager Mark War­bur­ton as be­ing “quite sad” on Fri­day – is lost some­where in the mists of time.

It could be down to Rangers tak­ing over from Aberdeen as the dom­i­nant force in Scot­tish foot­ball way back in the 1980s. That in­fa­mous Neil Simp­son foul on Ian Dur­rant cer­tainly has a great deal to do with it. As does your av­er­age Aber­do­nian’s gen­eral dis­like of Glaswe­gians.

What­ever the rea­son, the time they have spent apart has done ab­so­lutely noth­ing to thaw re­la­tions. The old say­ing about ab­sence mak­ing the heart grow fonder ceer­tainly could not be ap­plied here. “We lived and you died,” was the next ditty to be aimed in the di­rec­tion of the away sec­tion.

The 2000 or so Rangers fol­low­ers who were crammed into their sec­tion of the sta­dium, no strangers to such abuse af­ter over four sea­sons of it, were never go­ing to take the jibes with­out re­spond­ing in kind. They gave just as good as they got through­out pro­ceed­ings.

Know­ing that Aberdeen fans had or­gan­ised a minute’s ap­plause in the 12th minute – a ref­er­ence to the year the Ibrox club was placed into liq­ui­da­tion – on­line in or­der to “wel­come Rangers to Pit­to­drie for the first time”, they tried to lessen the im­pact of it. God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia both re­ceived an air­ing. Un­de­terred, the home con­tin­gent in­side the fa­mous old ground rose as one to clap their ‘new’ op­po­nents.

Sadly, the hu­mour in so much of the rib­bing had quickly turned sour. The Billy Boys was belted out and ugly scenes erupted. The thin blue line which sep­a­rated the home and away sup­port­ers in the South Stand had to be called into ac­tion. Rangers sup­port­ers, an­gry at the provo­ca­tion, had to be phys­i­cally re­strained and mis­siles were hurled in both di­rec­tions. Po­lice re­in­force­ments quickly ar­rived to quell the trou­ble.

Given all the flak which was fly­ing in their di­rec­tion, Niko Kran­j­car and Philippe Sen­deros would have been within their rights if they had re­fused to warm-up be­tween the Main Stand and the Merk­land Stand in the first half. Yet the duo, both high-pro­file sum­mer ac­qui­si­tions who have, so far at least, failed to ex­cel, emerged from the dugout.

Kran­j­car, though, once courted con­tro­versy when he moved from Di­namo Za­greb to Had­juk Split in his na­tive Croa­tia. Think Mo John­ston sign­ing for Rangers af­ter ap­par­ently agree­ing to re­turn for Celtic and then

THIN BLUE LINE: Po­lice at­tempt to quell un­rest as ri­val fans hurl abuse, among other things, at each other at Pit­to­drie yes­ter­day.

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