Tag Archives: Scottish Football

Rangers v Aberdeen

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.

Ex-Dons Captain Ryan Jack is now a fan favourite at Ibrox

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.

Bad blood

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.

Millar contemplates life after the final whistle

Chris Millar was the golden boy once but, as he enters the latter stages of his professional career, he is becoming more like the olden boy.

At the age of 33, the St Johnstone midfielder is no longer a man in a hurry, content to play a waiting game and win back his place in the Saints’ first team.

The man nicknamed ‘Midge’, is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and passionate figures in Scottish football.

In a career spanning 13 years, which began training alongside the likes of Henrik Larsson at Celtic and is now approaching its end, Millar has never been too far away from the headlines.

Whether it was winning St Johnstone their first-ever Scottish Cup in 2014, experiencing European football in the Europa League or contemplating a move to Australia, his career has been eventful.

However off the pitch, the Glasgow-born player is forging as impressive career for himself as a sports journalist.

“Ultimately, my hope is to host something, a bit like Gary Lineker. Whether that happens or not time will tell, but like anything it’s about opportunity and working hard to create that”

After working for broadcasters including BT Sport, Millar is optimistic about the future and once he decides to hang up his boots.

The former Greenock Morton player is setting his sights high in a career in broadcasting.

“I think there is definitely a realisation that life after football has to be planned for,” admits Millar.

“Not every player earns the money that will keep them ticking for the rest of their days, especially in Scotland.

“Many players are aware of it and are making plans once their career is over, and the PFA are doing a great job in highlighting this issue.”

Chris Millar on duty as a journalist

Despite the criticism that former players get once they land a role in the media, Millar insists that he wants to try and change the views of professional footballers.

“I think at times some players think there is an agenda within the media to sell units,” he says.

“As a former player, I do not have an agenda to push. I just want to report the events as honestly as I can and try to open up the game more to the public.

“My main aim is to show the public about what goes on at football clubs with players, managers, etc.

“I enjoy most aspects of journalism like writing, broadcasting both radio and TV. I have done work in all three and I have held down a slot as a pundit on radio and I work for a national paper.

“Ultimately, my hope is to host something, a bit like Gary Lineker. Whether that happens or not time will tell, but like anything it’s about opportunity and working hard to create that.”

University life

For many players, their first port after retirement is to become a coach or manager. After initially contemplating this, Millar chose to broaden his horizons – and he says completing a degree at Staffordshire University was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“I have always wanted to stay involved in the game,” he says. “It’s all I have known since I was a 17-year-old at Celtic so it is important for me to stay involved.

“As a pro, I think you can relate more to players as you’ve been through many of the things they go through so it gives you an insight that not many journalists have”

“When I saw that I could do a sports broadcasting degree whilst still playing, it got me thinking, so it really came from there.

“Many players want to go into coaching so there is only going to be so many jobs going around. I enjoy using my brain and learning new skills so for me it is interesting to use a different skills-set.

“As a pro, I think you can relate more to players as you’ve been through many of the things they go through so it gives you an insight that not many journalists have.”

Most individuals would struggle to manage their professional and academic lives, but Millar has balanced both and he says even though it was difficult, it was worth it in the end.

“It was tough, don’t get me wrong,” admits the Scot.

“Juggling footy, two kids and a degree takes time and effort. However, in the end it paid off as I gained a first class degree. By using my brain again, I enjoyed learning a whole new skill set.

“The funny thing is that I played some of my best football whilst studying. It gave my mind something else to focus on – it’s good to have a release from that.”

The return of the Old Firm 

With the return of Rangers to Scotland’s top division, the competition in the league has gained an intensity that it had been missing in recent years.

Despite the likes of Celtic, Aberdeen and Rangers being touted as the ‘big boys’, Millar’s St Johnstone have continued to progress under manager Tommy Wright, a journey Millar says will continue.

“We’ve been up there the last few seasons and as a club we now see ourselves as a top four side, so we will continue to improve and progress as a team.”

“The return of Rangers has been huge for Scottish football,” he says.

“They bring a bigger spotlight to the league and obviously you have the Old Firm derby back which is a huge game. As a player, you want to play in front of big crowds and I have honestly missed playing at Ibrox.

“We [St Johnstone] have started well but ultimately I do not think we can win the league. However, I do not see any reason to why we cannot challenge for the other top four spots.

“We’ve been up there the last few seasons and we now see ourselves as a top four side, so we will continue to improve and progress.”

Scotland’s World Cup adventure 

Scotland and RB Leipzig’s Oliver Burke

Looking at the national team, Scotland’s qualification campaign for the Russia 2018 World Cup has not been going well, and in November manager Gordon Strachan faces a huge test – against England, at Wembley.

“Results have not been good enough ultimately,” says Millar.”I compare ourselves to teams of the other home nations and when I look at them, man for man we have as much if not more talent than them yet they have just been to the Euros and we have not. That is not good enough,” he says.

“The last two results in the qualifiers were poor and it means we must now go onto beat England. If we lose that then for me, Strachan must go.”

As Millar points out, Scotland have a number of star players and one of the most highly-regarded is former Nottingham Forest and current RB Leipzig player Oliver Burke.

His goal for Leipzig against FC Koln made the 19-year-old Scotland international the first Scot to score in the Bundesliga since Brian O’Neil for VFL Wolfsburg in November 1999.

“He has all the physical attributes needed in modern football,” insists Millar. “He is athletic, quick and he can score.

“He is still very young and he has a long way to go but I think going to Germany will enhance his learning. More players should try to play abroad as I think it can only enhance your development as a player.”

Not calling it quits yet

Despite his age and planning for the longer term, Millar insists he is not yet done with playing football.

“I have been at the club for nine years and had some amazing memories and success with St Johnstone”

“I have an ambition to play as long as I can as I love the game and feel I still have plenty to offer,” says the midfielder.

“I had issues with injuries last season but that is behind me. There is still life in my legs yet and I do not feel that I am off the pace. When I do feel that, then that is the time to stop.

“I am fit now and have been for most of the season so far, so I am ready to play when called upon. I know when I get back in the team, I will play well and then get my chance again.

“I have been at the club for nine years and had some amazing memories and success with St Johnstone. I have achieved things that I wanted in my career like playing in Europe, winning trophies and playing at the highest level in Scotland.

“It is a fantastic community-based club with loyal fans who have made me feel like one of them. It will always have a place in my heart.”

Chris Millar is on Twitter @MidgeyMiller