The Bears vs The Dons – Rangers’ other arch rivals
It might just be the biggest rivalry in British football that you’ve never heard of, but the enmity between Rangers and Aberdeen is fierce.
Of course, we’re all familiar with the Rangers-Celtic Old Firm hostilities, anchored in sectarian, political and social divides going back centuries – but that’s a Glasgow thing.
So what makes two clubs 145 miles apart develop a passionate hatred for each other (at least among their supporters)?
On a cold night at Ibrox recently, I witnessed the latest chapter in a Rangers-Aberdeen rivalry that stretches back to the 1980s and shows no signs of letting up.
The hosts won 3-0, with Dons midfielder Ryan Christie sent off in the 84th minute. He’s currently on loan from Celtic…
Chorus of boos
A few days later, the fixture was reversed, but Rangers ran out 2-1 winners at Pittodrie. This times Ryan Jack got his marching orders for the visitors.
Maybe he was trying a little too hard against the club he used to captain, having joined the ‘Gers in the summer for no fee after his contract expired.
In the match at Ibrox, the Scotland international was clearly not worried about upsetting his old fans, pointing to the Rangers badge on his shirt whilst celebrating his side’s third goal of the night.
When they met again, he received a straight red card for a challenge on Stevie May and left the pitch to a chorus of boos from the home support that once idolised him.
Both matches were feisty affairs, played out against a backdrop of Rangers’ ongoing interest in recruiting Dons manager (and Ibrox old boy) Derek McInnes.
A recent history of hatred
That unwelcome advance (in the eyes of the Dons hierarchy) is fully in keeping with Scottish football’s other big feud. But how did it originate?
The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson brought an era of great success to Aberdeen in the 1980s, with Rangers and Celtic no longer the trophy-winning duopoly of old.
Sir Alex guided the Granite City outfit to 17 wins and only four defeats against the Ibrox side during his eight-year tenure.
The rivalry grew after Ferguson’s departure. When the sides met during a league match at Pittodrie in 1988, Aberdeen’s Neil Simpson broke the leg of Rangers’ Ian Durrant, effectively ending his career.
This incident remains the key aspect of the rivalry, with Dons supporters still mocking their rivals with sick chants of ‘Who’s that lying at Pittodrie? Who’s that lying on the floor?’
It’s always a prominent number in the Aberdeen songbook when the two teams meet and it gets the Bears’ blood boiling.
The rivalry is unique as the sides are not close geographically. Aberdeen to Dundee is just 66 miles down the A90, but Dundee has two teams and therefore its own derby.
Anyway, the kind of bad blood that exists between the Dons and Rangers goes beyond a simple factor such as proximity.
‘If McInnes is lured away east coast to the West End of Glasgow, the bitter rivalry between the two teams is bound to take a further toxic turn’
Witness, the 2002 clash between the pair at Pittodrie, when the game was stopped for 20 minutes and was almost abandoned after the home side’s Robbie Winter was struck by a coin thrown by the away fans.
The incident led to both sets of supporters invading the pitch and fighting, with riot police having to enter the field of play to bring them under control.
Aberdeen view Rangers as their biggest rivals, partly because of these heated matches in the past, but also because they don’t technically have a local rival.
Their fans have revelled in the Gers financial woes in recent years, which saw them relegated to the Scottish third tier and have to claw their way back to the top flight.
But they’re back now, and will Dons boss McInnes be tempted to follow Jack and head for Ibrox soon?
Aberdeen recently rejected a formal approach from Rangers, but McInnes is reported to be interested in taking charge at his old club.
If he is lured away from the east coast to the West End of Glasgow, the bitter rivalry between the two teams is bound to take a further toxic turn.