Season 1963/64 was a dismal one for Aberdeen during which the Dons finished ninth in the First Division and had found it a struggle
to win at home, recording only seven victories out of 23 fixtures played at Pittodrie Park. There was further pain for their long-suffering
fans when their team made a humiliating third-round exit from the Scottish Cup at the hands of Second Division side Ayr United after
they were beaten 2-1 at home.
The Dons had a chance to redeem themselves when the Summer Cup was revived in 1964. The tournament
had last taken place in 1945 and was brought back to help First Division clubs recoup some of their escalating running costs. Aberdeen
were in the Group 1 qualifying section with Dundee, Dundee United and St Johnstone. Celtic and Rangers declined to participate in
the competition, which was confined to First Division clubs.
Aberdeen manager Tommy Pearson had strengthened his forward line
with the signing of centre-forward Andy Kerr from Sunderland and winger Willie McIntosh from East Stirlingshire. The experienced Kerr
had been a prolific goal-scorer with Kilmarnock in season 1962-63 and he showed he hadn't lost his touch with two goals in a 3-2 victory
over St Johnstone as the Dons opened their campaign at Pittodrie on May 2 before a crowd of 6,000. McIntosh also contributed to revitalising
the Dons' forward line, but a couple of defensive lapses allowed Saints' Sandy McRorie to pull back two goals in three minutes. Norman
Macdonald, the Aberdeen Press and Journal's chief football writer, took heart from the Dons' performance and believed they had "a
sporting chance of reaching the knockout stages of the Summer Cup".
In the next fixture, Aberdeen lost to a goal by Alan Cousin
while playing Dundee at Dens Park. Dons left-back Jimmy Hogg was injured early in the game and, in the days before substitutes were
allowed, was forced to "hirple forlornly" as a passenger on the left-wing for the rest of the match. Ernie Winchester switched from
inside-left to replace Hogg at left-back while McIntosh took over Winchester's position. These changes upset Aberdeen's rhythm although
their defence did well to prevent any further goals from the Dark Blues. The fact that the injured Hogg had to continue playing instead
of being substituted reflects the culture of the period and thankfully we live in more enlightened times. The Summer Cup's crowded
fixture list also gave injured players less time to recover for the next match.
An abysmal performance by the Dons saw them slump
to a 4-1 away defeat by a superior Dundee United, spearheaded by Denis Gillespie and Tommy Neilson. Aberdeen had shown little fighting
spirit despite the club's management pledging three months earlier that future policy would be based on "fielding a team of fighters"
following the Scottish Cup fiasco against Ayr United.
Ian Lister and Tommy Morrison were brought into the Aberdeen forward line
for the match against St Johnstone at Muirton Park and the attack showed "more dash and initiative" than previously. Dons centre-half
Doug Coutts suffered a stomach injury and played on the right wing after Kerr replaced him in defence. Despite his injury, Coutts
scored his side's first goal and almost on the final whistle nodded the ball on to Morrison who scored with a header which sealed
the Dons' 2-0 victory.
At a sunny Pittodrie, my father and I watched a rejuvenated Aberdeen beat Dundee 3-1 in which Andy Kerr
"not only generalled the attack skilfully, but also took time to score a couple of dandy goals", wrote Norman Macdonald. Fellow-newcomer
Willie McIntosh had opened the scoring for the home side with a well-taken header and kept Scotland full-back Alex Hamilton on his
toes throughout the match. Alan Gilzean got a consolation goal for the Dark Blues eight minutes from the end.
The Dons' victory
placed them two points behind Dundee United but they could still pip their rivals on goal average and advance to the semi-finals if
they beat the Tannadice side by at least three goals at Pittodrie. Aberdeen rose to the occasion and confounded their critics by thrashing
United 5-0 before 12,000 fans on May 20. Don Kerrigan's penalty kick paved the way for victory and there followed goals from Morrison,
Winchester, a second by Kerrigan while McIntosh completed the rout of a demoralised United side with a header from a free kick by
Coutts. Aberdeen wing-half Dave Smith, who was seeking a transfer, was singled out for praise by Norman Macdonald for "using
the ball skilfully and intelligently, even in the most difficult circumstances".
Aberdeen were drawn against Partick Thistle
in the two-leg semi-final, but failed to recapture their goal-scoring appetite in the first leg at Firhill on May 23 when they lost
1-0 to the Jags. The only goal came six minutes after the start after a hesitant John Ogston in the Aberdeen goal allowed Billy Cunningham
"to poke the ball over the line at full stretch". In the return leg at Pittodrie, the Dons took the lead with an own goal by Thistle's
Tommy Gibb but Neil Duffy equalised early in the second-half. The Jags were awarded a penalty soon after but Ogston saved John Harvey's
spot kick. Thistle looked destined for the final but the Dons were far from beaten and, urged on by their fans in the 14,000 crowd,
fought back to score twice with Tommy Morrison snatching both goals during a frenetic, final 10 minutes. It was the first time Aberdeen
had reached the final of a national competition since losing 3-1 to St Mirren in the 1959 Scottish Cup Final.
The Dons' success
was overshadowed by the typhoid outbreak in Aberdeen which had begun almost two weeks earlier. On June 1, it was announced there were
209 typhoid cases being treated in three city hospitals, the infection being traced to contaminated corned beef. Aberdeen became a
beleaguered city and for public-health reasons the Dons' two-leg final against Hibernian, who were managed by Jock Stein, was postponed
until the crisis was over. Although Hearts had topped Group 4 they were committed to going on tour to the United States and Edinburgh
rivals Hibs took their place after winning a play-off against Dunfermline before beating Kilmarnock 6-4 on aggregate to reach the
A visit to Aberdeen by the Queen in July did much to help life return to normal in the city and paved the way for the
Dons' clash with Hibs in the first leg of the final at Pittodrie on August 1 before a crowd of 20,000. Ernie Winchester opened
the scoring for the Dons, but both teams had to contend with a blustery wind. Andy Kerr recaptured his scoring touch with a brace
of goals while Hibs countered with two fortuitous goals from Jim Scott. Dons full-back Ally Shewan stopped scoring attempts on the
goal-line from Eric Stevenson and Willie Hamilton, but then in the match's dying minutes, as Hibs piled on the pressure, he spectacularly
kicked a netbound shot from Neil Martin over the bar with Ogston out of position.
On August 5, the Dons took a one-goal lead
to Easter Road, where 26,900 fans were treated to a hard-fought cup-tie in which Willie Wilson performed heroics in the Hibs' goal.
A late goal by Hibernian centre-forward Stan Vincent took the match into extra time. The Edinburgh side seemed on the brink of snatching
victory after Eric Stevenson scored with a close-range header, but fortune smiled on the Dons when right-half Charlie Cooke saw his
header bounce over two Hibs defenders and enter the net via the angle of the post and crossbar two minutes from the end. There were
no penalty shoot-outs then and a third game was needed with Aberdeen winning the choice of venue.
My father and I were among
the 23,000 spectators who crowded into Pittodrie for the final final on Wednesday, September 2. Hopes were high that the Dons would
land their first major silverware since winning the League Cup against St Mirren in 1955, but it was not to be. In five minutes Willie
Hamilton volleyed the ball into the roof of the net to open the scoring for Hibs, but local lad Ernie Winchester rallied his team
with a superb equaliser. Ogston saved a penalty from Pat Stanton and then the home side had another escape when a shot from Neil Martin
rebounded off the inside of the post. A blunder by the Dons' defence allowed Jim Scott to put Hibs in the lead, resulting in Aberdeen
throwing everything into the attack, but the visitors held out. Five minutes before the end another defensive error by the Dons saw
teenager Peter Cormack score a rather scrappy goal to give Hibs a 3-1 victory.
Reporting on the match in the Press and Journal,
Norman Macdonald wrote that although the Dons had put up a hard fight, justice had been done because "Hibs were the more stylish soccer
combine. They moved the ball with precision and skill. Their forwards played as a team." He added that manager Tommy Pearson would
have "to produce a touch of magic to transform this Dons team into a match-winning blend", but that failed to materialise and in the
following year Pearson quit after the Dons were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by East Fife and was succeeded by Eddie Turnbull,
whose competitive and ruthless style helped revive Aberdeen's fortunes
The Dons failed to qualify for the knockout stages of
the 1965, and last, Summer Cup, which was won by Motherwell after they beat Dundee United 3-2 on aggregate. Peter Cormack recalled
the 1964 tournament 50 years later in a newspaper article, saying that the Hibernian players were not that keen on it: "The married
guys were especially unhappy because it ate into their summer holidays. It wasn't so bad for younger laddies like myself, who would
have played every night of the week, but I don't think it was ever going to catch on."
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