Roy Aitken was never one to shirk a challenge as a player and he found himself
in the thick of things as a rookie manager after Willie Miller and Aberdeen had
parted company. Aitken's remit was a tall one - save Aberdeen from the drop with
only a handful of games remaining.
Miller's departure was an emotional one but there was little time for the
Dons to dwell on what had happened. They were in desperate trouble and the
reality was that there seemed little hope that they could save themselves.
Almost daily the club were spread across the back pages as little sympathy
emanated from the press as to Aberdeen's plight. It was a time for the club
to pull together and see if they could indeed pull off an escape act of Houdini
Aitken could not have got a more difficult baptism with Rangers due at Pittodrie
in his first game in charge. There was a highly charged atmosphere and it was
a rejuvenated Dons who set about their Ibrox rivals and came up with the goods.
A marvellous 2-0 win sent the crowd away home with hope once more. It was a
display of true passion that took the Dons through and the large Aberdeen support
gave their team marvellous backing. It remained to be seen if the Dons could
in fact haul themselves away from trouble and any thoughts of an imminent revival
were quashed a week later when the Dons suffered one of the darkest hours in
the Scottish Cup against lowly Stenhousemuir. Aitken knew he had a difficult
task ahead, now it looked impossible.
If anything positive came out of the Cup defeat then the club could focus
wholly on their survival. In what was a frantic finish to the season, under
Roy Aitken the Dons pulled off a remarkable escape, eventually saving themselves
via the first ever Premier play-off. By that time the former Celt had been
appointed on a long-term contract and he set about restoring the club's battered
The Aberdeen renaissance under Aitken was completed some months later when
the Dons won the League Cup. It was a remarkable reversal of fortunes and for
that Roy Aitken took the credit. The Dons defeated Rangers in the semi-final
before comfortably beating Dundee in the Hampden final. The side had also been
strengthened with Aitken afforded substantial funds to improve the squad. Paul
Bernard became the first £1m Aberdeen player and although that label
was to eventually prove a heavy burden, Bernard made a promising enough start.
Dean Windass was brought in from Hull City for a £750,000 fee and everything
seemed rosy under Aitken. However, a disappointing finish to the season following
their cup success suggested that there was still much to be done. The spending
spree continued in 1996 as Aitken turned cosmopolitan and brought in Llian
Kirakov , Tzanko Tzvetanov, Toni Koumbouare and Nicky Walker. Despite this
influx of new talent and a promising start to the 1996-97 season, the Dons
continued to struggle.
Ebbe Skovdahl's Brondby handed out a European lesson in Aitken's first run
in Europe and from that point on it was downhill for Aberdeen. The massive
spending budget had failed to lift the Dons above the mediocre and despite
this the trend was to continue in the summer of 1997. The hype and expectancy
that surrounded the club came about after more than £2m was invested
in new players. Alitken brought back Jim Leighton, Eoin Jess and Gary Smith
for a Pittodrie reunion and he also splashed out £750,000 to take Brian
O'Neil from Celtic. O'Neil, in reality, was a disastrous buy and it was money
the club could ill afford to waste.
Aberdeen went from being favourites to break through against the Old Firm
found themselves cut adrift at the bottom and could not buy a win. A semi-final
defeat in the League Cup against Dundee United was the beginning of the end
for Roy Aitken who seemed at a loss as to how to turn it around. A crushing
defeat at Tannadice was the last act under Roy Aitken who parted company the
following day. It had been a roller coaster ride for Aitken - guiding the Dons
to safety in his early tenure and then reaching an impressive peak with the
League Cup success. However, it was all downhill from then on and despite being
given more money to spend than any other manager in the history of the club,
under Aitken the Dons had plummeted with alarming concern.
Roy Aitken began his career in his native Ayrshire before joining Celtic as
an 'S' form signing in 1975. Aitken went through the full array of international
honours and went on to captain his country on several occasions, including
leading his country in to the World Cup Finals in Italy in 1990. A self confessed
Celtic supporter it was at Parkhead that he was to enjoy his best spell as
Aitken also went on to play a pivotal role in the Scotland U-21 side as an
over age player. IN 1990 after spending his entire career at Celtic he surprisingly
switched to Newcastle after 14 years as "The Bear" at Parkhead. Aitken's
spell on the Tyne was to last 14 months before being released by the then manager
Ossie Ardiles who just did not fancy the more aggressive side to Aitken in
St Mirren offered Aitken the chance to prolong his career and it was from
there that Willie Miller paid the Paisley club £100,000 for his services
in a shock move in 1992. Primarily brought in as an assistant to Miller, Aitken
made several appearances for the Dons, his last coming in 1995.
Roy Aitken is currently in the comfort zone with Leeds United, helping develop
the younger Elland Road players. For many Aitken's days at Pittodrie will be
remembered as a failure but his efforts to keep the side together in their
darkest hours in 1995 must never be forgotten.