Gone were the days of the transfer market - it was a time for reflection and some careful planning. Financially the club were in turmoil, years of spending on players and high wages had taken its toll. Something had to give and a new outlook prevailed. Skovdahl had all the ingredients that Aberdeen were looking for having taken Danish club Brondby to unsurpassed heights in their history. Skovdahl had taken his side to Pittodrie in 1996 and had obviously left an impression in a comfortable 2-0 win for Brondby.
Although Paul Hegarty had taken the Dons to relative safety both he and assistant Neil Cooper were told that they would not be offered the job on a permanent basis. In the intervening period until the shock appointment of Skovdahl, the club were slaughtered in the media and that criticism eventually gave way to speculation of who was to take over in the summer of 1999 Aberdeen appointed their first foreign coach, as a new era was to unfold. The new Aberdeen manager could hardly have got off to a worse start - six defeats in the SPL and not even a single goal scored. It was also the same squad that was in place and in game seven against Dundee United it was another defeat but at least a goal was scored, a free kick from Andy Dow that was greeted with a tumultuous roar from the Pittodrie crowd.
Skovdahl's first win was stunning - an incredible 6-5 win against Motherwell at Fir Park. In his first few months in charge Skovdahl brought new faces and gradually began to make his mark on the side. Thomas Solberg was brought in to shore up a defence that was leaking a record amount of goals. Arild Stavrum, Cato Guntveit and the Moroccan duo of Hicham Zerouali and Rachid Belabed offered a glimmer of hope of better days ahead. However, in the SPL the Dons could do little right and it seemed a certainty that they would finish in bottom place. Normally that would have caused great concern but there was a 'safety net' in place due to Falkirk's well documented stadium difficulties. That eventually would prove crucial as the Brocksville side would not be allowed entry into the new set up thus allowing the Dons not to go through the play off scenario that first came to light in 1995. The more cynical among the media suggested that because of this Aberdeen could concentrate on the domestic cups.
The form book suggested they had a point - Aberdeen under Ebbe Skovdahl in his first year had plummeted the depths in the league yet could do little wrong in the cups, and remarkably reached both the Scottish and League Cup finals. As the club entered the new millennium under Skovdahl it soon became apparent that the Dons would need some major surgery to become a force again, and it was clear that Skovdahl had his work cut out. 83 league goals told its own story and with little prospect of getting the funds for a short term fix, season 2000 - 2001 was going to be a definitive one for the Aberdeen manager in many ways.
What was all the more remarkable was the level of support that Ebbe Skovdahl received from the patient Red Army. The new season opened with no faces on board and it was by a strange quirk of fate that the Dons injury crisis at the start of that season offered new hope. Forced to perhaps play more of the promising younger players than he would normally have chosen to do, players like Phil McGuire, Kevin McNaughton, Darren and Derek Young and Darren Mackie all made their presence felt in a squad that was emerging as the youngest ever to represent the Dons. Skovdahl also endeared himself further by accepting a pay cut in order to help the club through what was and still is difficult financial times. The signs of recovery soon became clear as the Dons at no point looked like being in trouble at the wrong end of the table and although they just missed out on a top six finish, the seeds of recovery under Ebbe had been well and truly sown.
In Season 2002-03 the fruits of that labour were rewarded with a welcome return to European football, a fourth place finish in the SPL was just rewarded for the Dons manager who had guided his young side through some traumatic times in recent seasons.
For a manager that, in his first season saw his side leak a record amount
of goals (the club's worst position since the late 60s) the transformation
has been remarkable. Clearly the introduction of the younger players who all
seem to have bonded superbly under the Dane been a telling factor in the Dons
renaissance under Ebbe Skovdahl.