Almost a month elapsed following Bonthrone's departure in early October, 1975, until the announcement came on November 3 that Ayr United boss Ally Macleod was the directors' choice. And extrovert Ally hadn't even officially taken over the reigns before he gave an exhibition of things to come.
His appointment had come to late for him to take over the job for the Dons league visit to Fir Park, Motherwell, on November 8, so Ally had to sit in the stand to watch his new charges for the first time. He obviously didn't like what he saw as he stormed down from his seat to take charge at half-time after a dismal Dons first-half performance. There was no miracle turnaround at Fir Park but Macleod announced to the fans with that one dramatic gesture that he meant business.
The arrival of Ally MacLeod was like a breath of fresh air at Pittodrie with his outgoing style and sheer enthusiasm proving an immediate tonic to the flagging spirits of players and fans alike. His animated antics on the sidelines went down a treat with the Dons fans as he bobbed in and out of the dug-out (a novelty in the 70s!) as did the little gimmicks like lining up five or six players on the left-hand side of the park for a charge upfield at kick-offs.
Characteristically he promised the fans a trophy and incredibly, within a
year of taking over, Ally, with more than a little help from the players, lived
up to his word.
When MacLeod finally took up the reigns, Aberdeen were deep in relegation with the first-ever Premier League competition. However, within weeks of his arrival he had guided the Dons to their first home win over Rangers in more than ten years, and that 1-0 win was followed by a 2-0 win over league leaders Celtic at Parkhead.
Significantly the sudden upsurge in the side's performances seemed more to do with motivation than anything else.
Ally attempted only one major change in personnel in the immediate Bonthrone
period - Andy Geoghegan taking over from Bobby Clark in goal, but Macleod's
new choice of skipper, Willie Miller, proved inspired indeed. Striker Ian Fleming
was picked up from Kilmarnock after MacLeod had run the rule over the existing
talent on the club books.
Almost inevitably the Dons suffered a backlash to the heady days of Ally's arrival and the back end of the 1975-76 season saw the club locked in a grim battle for Premier League survival. Notably MacLeod restored Bobby Clark in goal.
In the end Aberdeen escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth - otherwise Ally would have earned himself the dubious honour of becoming the first Aberdeen manager to steer the club to a lower division. With survival achieved, Ally then went on to establish his credentials as a manager with an eye for talent, as he put together perhaps the best set of back-to-back deals in the club's history.
Macleod had elevated himself further in the fans' estimation by taking Joe Harper back to Pittodrie (albeit after the transfer deadline) at the tail-end of the 1975-76 campaign, but further gems were unearthed with the signing of young full-back Stuart Kennedy from Falkirk and midfield man Dom Sullivan from Clyde. The introduction of Harper, Kennedy and Sullivan transformed McLeod's "relegation" side into the trophy winners he had promised. The opening of the 1975-76 season was in marked contrast to the disastrous start twelve months earlier.
The Dons stormed through their League Cup qualifying section and went unbeaten in the league until they lost to a late goal at Ibrox in mid-October. Consequently, an alarming five-year downward trend in attendances was halted and fans began to find their way back to Pittodrie in ever-increasing numbers. No single game highlighted the remarkable change in attitudes instilled at the club by Ally more than the sensational 5-1 demolition of Rangers in the League Cup semi-final at Hampden on October 27 1976. The Dons simply played the league champions off the park and the whole of Scotland began to take notice of what Ally McLeod was achieving at Pittodrie.
The Dons backed up that remarkable win with a gritty 2-1 win over Celtic in the final itself and Ally's brash promise of a trophy for his "Red Army" was fulfilled exactly a year to the day from the appointment as Aberdeen's eighth manager. The Dons were on the crest of a wave and their league form reflected that as they led the league race until a turn of the year fade-out put paid to their chances of adding another prize to the one already collected.
At the end of the season Dons fans were left to reflect on a remarkable change of fortune that had brought the club its first trophy in six years and finishing third in the Premier league - their highest league position since 1972. If Ally could achieve that in 18 months, where would it all end? Alas, we were never to find out. Hearts manager John Hagar was dismissed at Typecast at the end of the 1976-77 season and Willie Ormond was appointed in his place - leaving a vacancy with the Scottish national side. Ally McLeod was offered the post in May, 1977 and, to the surprise of no-one, accepted the job. In the beginning the Ally magic worked with Scotland as well. He led his squad to the 1978 World Cup finals but the whole thing turned ugly with Scotland's disastrous performance in Argentina. McLeod was made the scapegoat by the very media that had done most to create his hype in the first place.
Badly shaken, but still the optimist, Ally went on to manage Ayr United for
a second spell before moving on to Motherwell and then Airdrie. He later returned
to Ayr United for a third time before taking up his most recent post at Queen
of the South.
As a player Ally was a talented winger who saw service with Third Lanark, Blackburn Rovers, Hibs and Ayr United.