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.