While the stepping down of Dave Shaw as Aberdeen manager on November 17, 1959,
may have taken the fans by surprise, the event had obviously been planned behind
the scenes as the appointment of new boss Tommy Pearson came into effect almost
immediately the same day. Pearson, a well-liked and respected former player,
had only rejoined the club a few months earlier as youth team coach, and there
were those who reckoned that the replacement of Shaw by Pearson had been the
plan all along, and the few months that Tommy had spent with the youngsters was
to test his mettle as a future boss. In any case, there appeared to be no acrimony
surrounding the moves, and a new chapter in the Dons history was opened.
Pearson began his playing career with Murrayfield Amateurs in Edinburgh before
joining Newcastle United for the princely sum of £35 in 1933. At St James
Park he developed into one of the true characters of his era and he regularly
enthralled the Geordie public with his dazzling skills on the left flank. Like
all players of his generation, many of the best players were lost to World
War Two, but it earned Tommy a notch in history as the only player to have
played for both Scotland and England at international level. Pearson was capped
twice by Scotland in the immediate post-war period but by then he had already
turned out for England in a war-time international, when the English left winger
was injured following a road accident on the way to the game, and Tommy stood
in for him.
In February, 1948, Tommy was transferred to Aberdeen for £4,000 and
despite the fact he was 35, quickly became a personality player at Pittodrie.
His trademark was his famous "double-shuffle" - a technique
he developed during the war years while he was in the forces. His ability could
draw thousands to watch him even in the reserve matches.
Tommy, or "T.U.P." as he was fondly known (after his initials),
was primarily brought to Pittodrie by Dave Halliday as a seasoned professional
to add experience to the youth element that Halliday was seeking to introduce
to the Aberdeen side of the late 1940s. Pearson did Halliday proud and proved
to be a wonderful example to the young Dons players and seemed to relish his
teacher role. In 1953 he decided to call it a day, hung up his boots and turned
his hand to sports journalism with the Scottish Daily Mail. He was still a
writer when Aberdeen took him on as youth coach in 1959.
The situation facing Pearson as manager was not dissimilar to the one that
had faced Pearson the player back in 1948. In both instances the Dons had enjoyed
relatively recent trophy success, and again in both instances, the sides that
had achieved that success had become pretty long in the tooth. The main difference,
however, was that while as a player Pearson had several talented and experienced
team-mates - such as George Hamilton and Archie Baird to share the burden, Pearson
the manager had few survivors of the Dons 1955 championship side to build on.
Archie Glen and Fred Martin were still at Pittodrie but both were forced to
retire from the game within a year of Pearson taking over. Accordingly, "T.U.P." gave
youth its fling and that became the hallmark of the Pearson era at Pittodrie.
The role of the manager at the club, for the first time, began to take on the
characteristics of the modern manager's job, as Tommy, assisted by trainer
Dave Shaw, preached the importance of ball skills and tactics and was actively
involved in the application of both in a way that was unknown to former managers
such as Paddy Travers or Dave Halliday.
At the outset of the 1960-61 season, Pearson's first full campaign in
charge, the signs looked good. A new young-looking Dons side, with the likes
of Dave Bennett, Dave Fraser, Ian Burns and Charlie Cooke, challenged hard
for a championship itself up to the point where a 6-3 home defeat by Dunfermline
in the third round of the Scottish Cup in late February 1961 seemed to knock
the stuffing out of them. However, an unprecedented 6-1 thrashing of Rangers
at Pittodrie late in the season seemed to indicate to the success-hungry Dons
support that, given time, Pearson's youngsters might be the genuine article
Unfortunately, the following season proved to be a big disappointment, and
things seemed to go downhill for Tommy Pearson from then on. Inconsistent league
form became the norm: one week the Dons would win 7-0 at home and the next
they would go down 4-1 away. Attendances began to suffer but nothing did more
harm to Pearson's standing as a manager than a disastrous run of Scottish
Cup exits over the 1963-65 period. In 1963 the Dons went out to relegation
certs Raith Rovers after beating them 10-0 in the League earlier in the season,
and the following year second division Ayr united came north in the third round
of the Cup to record a bigger upset.
On February 10, 1965, following a 0-0 draw at Pittodrie, East Fife beat Aberdeen
1-0 in a replayed first round tie at Bayview, and no one was surprised when
Tommy Pearson followed that up with his resignation. In retrospect, Tommy Pearson
was in many ways a man ahead of his time as regards to his ideas and methods.
But he lacked the ruthless qualities that the modern game required of its managers - that
just wasn't "T.U.P.'s" style. After his Pittodrie experience
he could have been excused for turning his back on football, but instead he
became Newcastle United's Scottish scout.
Tommy passed away on the 2nd of March 1999.