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Danny Stewart: A weekend to underline how far the mighty Dons have fallen

© SNS GroupThe current woes of Aberdeen manager, Jim Goodwin, and St Mirren boss, Stephen Robinson, are in marked contrast to predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson, whose statue now stands outside Pittodrie.
The current woes of Aberdeen manager, Jim Goodwin, and St Mirren boss, Stephen Robinson, are in marked contrast to predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson, whose statue now stands outside Pittodrie.

On the first Friday of next month, an Aberdeen hotel will host a lunch to commemorate a landmark moment in Scottish football history.

It arrived on May 3, 1980 when the Dons won their first Scottish Premier Division title, becoming champions for only the second time.

With their rivals for the flag, Celtic, drawing 0-0 with St Mirren, the Reds’ thumping 5-0 win over Hibs at Easter Road saw them become the first team outside the Old Firm to win the country’s top honour for 15 years.

The fact the likes of Steve Archibald, Joe Harper and, of course, the manager, Alex Ferguson – now a knight of the realm – are still household names to this day underlines the quality of the group.

Sir Alex’s statue outside Pittodrie was sculpted from a photo of the legendary boss on the pitch that day, celebrating with supporters.

Ironically, 42 years on, those who attend the lunch can make a weekend of it by taking in Aberdeen against Hibs the following day.

Assuming that is, the comparison does not spoil their weekend.

Just as in 1980, it comes in the final couple of weeks of the regular season. There, though, the similarities end.

It’s a bottom-six match, in itself an embarrassment for a club of Aberdeen’s size.

Worse, where a title was at stake in 1980, in 2022 it is not inconceivable that the Dons will need to win this one to secure their Premiership future.

Their 11-point lead over a Dundee side led by Mark McGhee, one of the heroes of the 1980 triumph, should be enough to avoid automatic relegation.

The gap of six to St Johnstone in the play-off spot is a different matter.

In their last 13 league games, Aberdeen have won just once, that against a Hibs side whose own presence amongst the leagues also-rans underlines their struggles.

Out of the 39 points available to them over that period, the Dons have taken just eight, losing seven games.

To an extent, the miserable run is to be expected. The first half-dozen of those results led to Stephen Glass being sacked.

The appointment of Jim Goodwin as his replacement in mid-February has not been followed by a new-manager-bounce.

He has admitted that, and accepted his share of responsibility.

More significantly, Goodwin has already demonstrated a ruthlessness in his new post reminiscent of Sir Alex in his heyday.

Striker Jay Emmanuel-Thomas has just had his contract terminated with immediate effect.

That followed the controversial decision not to renew the contract of Andrew Considine, fourth in Aberdeen’s all-time appearance list with 562 games, after he rejected an initial offer, which included some coaching duties.

There was also the departure of Scott Brown, an assistant to Glass, off the back of Goodwin’s statement that he viewed him not as a player/coach, but simply as a player.

His actions show the confidence of a man who knows his own mind, and offset the grumblings of those who have pointed out that, as impressive as his St Mirren side were when Goodwin got the job, it was a different story in December.

An 11-game winless sequence had Saints supporters worrying about relegation.

Goodwin’s employers, past and present, are locked together on 36 points, so the dreaded drop can’t be discounted by either.

Stephen Robinson, his replacement in Paisley, has shouldered responsibility for the misery of the last couple of months where they have only one win in eight.

The problem is if Goodwin is to get sympathy for the flawed group he inherited – and the talk of making changes in the summer does naturally tend to lead you there – then by the same token, Robinson is deserving of the same.

Finishing 11th in the Premiership will not condemn the club involved to the drop. That applies as much to St Johnstone, currently in jeopardy, as to those who might fall to the extent that they take their place.

They will have what the bottom side will not, namely the opportunity to earn themselves a reprieve by winning their play-off.

But whoever it is, they will be up against a Championship side carrying positive momentum into their big test.

In short, the very opposite of what Aberdeen and St Mirren possess.

Dundee showed what was possible when clambering over Kilmarnock into the top flight last season with home and away wins in the Play-off Final.

The likelihood the pair will automatically swap places a season on is another twist in Scottish football’s continuing soap opera.

As indeed is the, admittedly thinner, possibility that Derek McInnes – Aberdeen’s most-successful manager of recent times and now in charge of Killie – will pass his old club on its way down.