20 Years On Part 3 - The Greatest Loss Of All

The words 'visionary' and 'legend' are by common consent bandied about too freely these days and applied to those not worthy of the title.

However with regards to the late Chris Anderson, they barely begin to describe the man.

Losing Alex Ferguson was undoubtedly a blow to Aberdeen FC, the loss of Chris Anderson to MS five months earlier was positively catastrophic...we may one day have a manager of similar abilities to Fergie, however we are unlikely ever to have a man blessed with the vision and foresight Chris brought to Pittodrie. He was, to ladle on the clichés, a man born 20 years before his time.

As Fergie said when he arrived, the entire club thought they could climb Everest in their slippers. This positive outlook and self belief came from the revolutionary three-man board: Chris was a member along with Dick Donald (the money man) and Charlie Forbes. All three had at one time played for the club...indeed Charlie Forbes had been Chris's teacher! As such, all of them understood the game and their club inside out.

As already mentioned, Dick Donald brought the sharp financial nous that had at one point seen almost every Aberdonian spend at least part of their disposable income each weekend in one of his numerous bars, bingo halls and cinemas. Chris came from the then RGIT as a sports administrator and was in many ways the ideas and vision man.

Fergie recalls how, immediately after his appointment, Chris whisked him off to the States to show him how sporting clubs were run over there and how his conversation was filled with the future of ‘satellite television' revenues...just a mere generation before Rupert Murdoch thought of the idea then!

Under Chris we also became the first side with an all-seater stadium...a full decade before the Taylor Report made them compulsory...we had the first executive boxes and so on and so forth. Chris was the prime mover and shaker in the reorganisation of a Scottish game that was dying on its arse in the mid 70's and brought the Premier Division into being, but whereas the 1990's rebrand was nakedly about cash, Chris's vision was to encourage competition and excitement. Until Murrays millions distorted the game in the 90's, it worked too.

In Chris and Dick Donald then, we had men who not only saw the future but understood it and what's more knew how to make it a reality. When you consider that at the time Football Directors were (and to a large extent remain) the local butchers/Rotarians out for a wee ego boost, they brought a new radical foresight to the Scottish game, and it is of little surprise that when Fergie arrived he found a club with the perfect blend of self confidence and arrogance that it could take on and beat anyone and anything regardless of their size or pedigree.

It's also worth pointing out that Anderson and Donald's man-management of Fergie was in itself superb. In his 30-plus years as a manager, Fergie has never had, nor will ever have, a better relationship on a business and personal level as that he had with Anderson and Donald. In a forerunner to his own relationship with Cantona, they adapted and bent over to accommodate him and he, as a mark of respect, changed his way to accommodate them.

Fergie tells of how they would discuss almost every aspect of the club with a cup of tea and a walk round the Pittodrie track...it's amusing to think that, a quarter of a century later, there wouldn't have been a club in Europe who wouldnae have killed to know what those four men talking a wee stroll were talking about at that time.

Chris's death in May 1986 was a truly devastating blow...though in a touching last act Fergie and co brought him the Scottish Cup to his bedside. For when Chris died Aberdeen FC was no longer an innovator, it became an imitator.

When his old partner Dick Donald slipped off this mortal coil in 1994 the financial stability he brought to the club went with him too...the financial nightmare of the late 90's was almost preordained.

And that is what I think has been the major problem with the club in the post-Fergie era...not that we failed to find a replacement for the man himself...but that we've spectacularly failed to find anyone capable of measuring up to the men who made his successes possible in the first place.

It's a hypothetical, but if Chris had not been taken from us I think we could have gone on and built on the Fergie era...for a start I very much doubt Chris would have okayed the appointment of Portaloo and given he predicted it a generation before it happened having Chris on board as the satellite TV boom of the 90's would have been a blessing.

That's not to say the Anderson/Donald years weren't without their faults...the 'Club' was very much restricted to their friends and confidants and the ordinary punters were very much a hassle who should be seen and not heard...schools for example were discouraged from organising visits to Pittodrie.

One of the more enduring myths or rumours from that era is that the board turned down an offer from a major oil company (BP or Shell, depends fah ye spik tae) to buy out the club. While this was understandable (no one would want to be the Sporting Division of a Multinational), one genuine criticism that can be laid at their doors is that the club failed to grab much of the oil money that was washing round and transforming the city in the early 80's.

As for where it all went wrong, well two words for ya: Iain Donald.

It would be easy to portray Donald who a chinless wonder born with a silver spoon in his mouth who's never done a hard day's graft in his puff...easy, but unfortunately correct as the once mighty Donald family empire now consists of one boozer in Rosemount last time I checked...though kenin 'Baby Dick' he's probably pissed that against a wall too.

Whilst it is important to remember that there was pressure and encouragement from the fans, it was he who gave Aitken and Miller the cash...a strategy which Wiggy initially followed.

As for the Wigged one well I think that most Reds now accept whilst he has made some monumental f*ck ups...appointin Alex f*ckin Miller for a start...he is big enough to admit he's made mistakes and is willing to learn from them.

The sign of good leadership is making tough decision and sticking to them (well that's Tony Blair's excuse for suckin Dubya's boaby onyways) and whilst the decisions of the last few years have been tough to stomach they are now beginning to pay dividends.

Wiggy and Willie are our best bet in the medium to long term but at the moment neither have shown anything to suggest that they are fit tae to lick either Dick Donald's or Chris Anderson's boots....20 years on, we don't need another Fergie: we need another Chris.

The Red Avenger