It is 36 years since a Scottish club last won a European trophy, the twin stars on Aberdeen’s jersey commemorating the 1983 capture of both the Cup-Winners’ Cup and Super Cup.
And as the present-day Dons, Celtic, Rangers and Kilmarnock prepare to embark on continental campaigns, one of the shining lights of those successes claims that, for some, qualifying for Europe has become a poisoned chalice.
Mark McGhee was the man who crossed for John Hewitt to head home the winner in Gothenburg when Aberdeen defeated Real Madrid in May, 1983.
He followed that up a few months later by netting himself to secure victory over Hamburg in the Super Cup.
The 62-year-old admitted: “You can’t buy memories like those. The shame is I don’t think any of our teams will be able to achieve them in the future.
“As much every Scottish football fan will have delighted in Andy Robertson’s fantastic Champions League win last season, the fact is he had to move south to get to those heights.
“True, Celtic and Rangers were both UEFA Cup runners-up, in 2003 and 2008 respectively.
“There is also an argument that after Leicester City’s success in winning the Premier League in 2015-16, nothing can ever be called impossible again.
“However, the way UEFA have got things set up now, even getting to a Final would be a really big ask.
“You have teams from the Big Five leagues – England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France – dropping down into the second competition in the later stages.
“With their financial resources, they are able to buy in the best players, guys who just aren’t an option for our clubs.
“You might be able to beat a Spurs, an Atletico Madrid or an Inter Milan in a one-off tie. But you if you played all three, the likelihood is that one of them would knock you out.
“If we are honest, reaching the latter stages has become the goal for our clubs. And that is Celtic and Rangers we are talking about – two massive clubs who do have some money to play with and home supports that can make the difference in ties.
“For the others, the likes of Aberdeen, Killie, Hearts and Hibs, it can be even tougher.
“I know that there are managers who look upon European qualification as a poisoned chalice.
“You do brilliantly to finish in the top four, which brings with it the promise of Europe.
“That’s fantastic for supporters because it allows them to start dreaming of taking a trip to go and watch their team at one of the iconic stadiums – Old Trafford, the Nou Camp or the San Siro.
“Odds are it is not going to happen, but it’s the fact it is a possibility that counts.
“If they haven’t got the money to travel or are too young, then there is still the thought of having household names coming to your ground to play your team.
“When you are a manager, though, you have to deal with reality – which usually isn’t so great.
“With the early qualifying rounds we have to play in now, you are looking at pre-season training as early as the second week in June.
“So instead of your players getting a decent summer break to recharge their batteries, it’s the bare minimum.
“And with the league season not kicking-off until the start of August, you potentially have a lot of time to keep your players ticking over.”
McGhee knows only too well the dangers of the early rounds.
“My first game in charge at Aberdeen was the 5-1 home defeat to Sigma Olomouc!” he said, referring to the 2009 Europa League qualifier.
“It was a bad loss to suffer – in any competition – and, as you would imagine, I took a fair bit of stick for it.
“In my defence, though, it was nothing to do with my tactics on the night. I had just got in the door and our squad was threadbare.
“I remember we had to use Charlie Mulgrew when he really should never have played, and we had other guys out of position. It wasn’t ideal and we didn’t play as well as I would have hoped.
“The main thing was that with 20 minutes to go, the lads were all out on their feet. We just didn’t have the fitness on the night.
“I could sympathise because when I was a player, I always took a wee while to get up to speed and match sharpness at the start of the season.
“But Olomouc took advantage of the situation, scoring three to end up with a big win on the night. That was us as good as out and we lost the second leg 3-0 for a final aggregate of 8-1.
“The fans weren’t pleased, of course. But Olomouc were a really good side, and more than able to take advantage of our lack of match readiness.
“When I was in charge of Motherwell, we lost a couple of ties, too, but that was an altogether different situation as we were basically taking a shot to nothing.”
McGhee doesn’t foresee any problems for Scotland’s clubs in the early qualifiers over the next week.
“Sometimes you look at a match and think, ‘Oh that’s a dodgy one,” he said.
“I don’t get that feeling this time out so I’d reckon we’ll be fine.”
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