By the time the European Cup Winners Cup was in the Pittodrie trophy room and the curtain had come down on the 1982-83 season Jim Leighton, Alex McLeish, Willie Miller and Gordon Strachan were all established as full Scottish Internationals. Peter Weir and Neil Simpson had also made the breakthrough and become familiar names in manager Jock Stein's full Scottish squad.
When Scotland went to Canada in June 1983 yet another Don, Mark McGhee, became part of the Stein national set-up. The three game tour of Canada was undertaken, in many ways, as much to aid the blossoming Canadian games as it was to benefit the Scots. However, the relaxed atmosphere of the mini tour was the perfect environment to give up and coming players such as Mark McGhee and Charlie Nicholas a chance to prove themselves.
The first game of the tour was scheduled for June 12 in Vancouver and McGhee was originally pencilled in as the starting striking partner for Nicholas. However, Jock Stein had not counted on Mark having a reaction to training on the stadium's Astroturf and foot blisters meant he was only named as substitute. Ironically, Charlie Nicholas went off injured early in the second half when he was brought down by the Canadian keeper in the penalty box, and Mark McGhee came on for his first full cap just moments after Gordon Strachan had put Scotland 1-0 ahead from the spot. Despite the heat and his blistered feet "Dingus" was prominent in the second half and capped a fine display with a goal 12 minutes from time. Four days later in the second game at Edmonton, Mark played from the start, finally giving Stein the chance to view the McGhee/Nicholas combination.
The duo blended well, with Charlie revelling in the space provided by McGhee's robust style and Scotland were coasting 2-0 ahead before Mark was given a rest in favour of Wolves' Andy Gray well into the second half. In the third game at Toronto Stein gave the remaining un-played members of his squad a run out and "Dingus" was not called upon. With Scotland less than well endowed with quality front men, the general feeling was that McGhee had done his future international prospects no harm at all over the course of the Canadian trip.
For the first few internationals of the ensuing 1983-84 season Frank McGarvey was the surprise first choice up front, but after two disappointing results against Belgium and East Germany in the European Championship, McGhee looked more and more likely to get the nod. He was called into the squad for Scotland's last British Championship match against Northern Ireland in December 1983. Although he started on the bench his entrance on 61 minutes in place of Frank McGarvey marked a historic moment in the Dark Blue Dons story as he took the field at Windsor Park to join five fellow Dons - Jim Leighton, Doug Rougvie, Alex McLeish and Peter Weir. Unfortunately, from a Scottish point of view the game didn't quite live up to the moment with Scotland trailing 2-0 to an inspired Irish side. McGhee tried hard to lift the Scots in the last half hour and almost pulled a goal back six minutes from time but it was not to be.
On May 26, 1984 only seven days after McGhee had played his last game for the Dons in a 2-1 Scottish Cup final win over Celtic, he lined up at Hampden in a dark blue jersey for the last ever British Championship match against England. A capacity crowd of 73,000 saw an international reminiscent of the heyday of the fixture, and with just 12 minutes gone Mark put Scotland in the lead with a powerful downward header from a perfect Gordon Strachan cross. "Dingus" played in typical bustling fashion and posed all sorts of problems for Graham Roberts and Terry Fenwick at the heart of the English defence. But the visitors equalised through Tony Woodcock, and when Scotland looked to have lost their way a little midway through the second half McGhee was replaced by Maurice Johnston, although his striking partner Steve Archibald looked a likelier candidate to be substituted. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, and within days Mark was on his way from Aberdeen to SV Hamburg. Surprisingly, his Scotland career was over. Hampered by his "exile" and subsequent injuries he never played for Scotland again.
At club level, Mark's senior career began south of the border when he joined Bristol City as a 16 year old apprentice in 1973. Within two years the youngster was back in his native Scotland playing for Morton. However, his performances soon had the scouts heading north to run the rule over him, and in December 1977, Mark signed for Newcastle United for £150,000. His stay - the first of two spells at St James's Park, proved an unhappy experience, but Dons boss Alex Ferguson thought £80,000 would be money well spent when he stepped in to sign McGhee in 1979.
After a couple of inauspicious performances, Mark started to show glimpses of what to expect in the future, and at the same time began to win over some of the doubting fans with four goals in an 11 game period at the end of the 1978-79 season. An injury which ended Joe Harper's career in the early weeks of the 1979-80 campaign opened the door wide for McGhee. As the Dons matured into championship material, Mark really came into his own. In the spring of 1980 he played a prominent role in two Aberdeen victories at Celtic Park and notched a goal in each game.
McGhee's style was all his own. He had the ability to run right at defenders and somehow power his way past with the ball seemingly tied to his right foot. His goals tended to come from inside the penalty box, and he was not averse to missing the proverbial sitter. But his strength and determination made him more than a handful, and opposing defenders just hated playing against him. Possibly Mark's biggest value to the Dons was not at Pittodrie, but away from home at the more difficult places for visiting teams. McGhee was regularly the lone figure up front as the Dons absorbed pressure. Once the defence had won the ball, it was quickly played to Mark. He would typically hold off the challenges of a couple of opponents, get in behind their defence and knock the ball across for breaking midfielders such as Strachan and Simspon to grab the glory.
Over his six full seasons at Pittodrie, Mark became an integral part of the club's success story, landing two League winners medals, three Scottish Cup winners medals and medals for winning both the European Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup as he amassed 100 goals. Perhaps his most telling contribution was not a goal at all, but his precise left-foot cross (yes, his left foot!") on to the head of John Hewitt for the goal that sealed the Cup Winners Cup for the Dons.
In 1984, in the immediate aftermath of Aberdeen's momentous third consecutive Scottish Cup triumph, courtesy of Mark's extra-time winner against Celtic, McGhee signed for SV Hamburg, a club which had experienced the McGhee treatment on more than one occasion. He returned to Scotland 18 months later to join another club which had learned to respect him, namely Celtic, and enjoyed a relatively successful four year spell at Parkhead. However, injuries began to take their toll, and he moved for a second spell at Newcastle in August 1989.
In May 1991, Mark moved into management as player / manager of Reading, hanging up his boots two years later. Late in 1994 he resigned at Reading to take over as Leicester City boss. He had been at Filbert Street only a year when he left in controversial circumstances to take up the manager's post at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Mark now manages Coca-Cola Championship side Brighton.