THE 1980s was a decade you either hated of loved. The Marmite years if you will.

If you were someone whose boat was floated by coal pits closing, racial tension, four million unemployed, long-term strikes, yuppies and the unique comedy of Cannon and Ball, then those ten years must have been rather good fun.

For those of us not to the right of Norman Tebbit, who I am told loved a bit of Tommy and Bobby on the box, they were pretty bleak years with only one or two shafts of light in the unremitting darkness.

At least Scottish football was pretty good. Indeed, this is my favourite decade when it comes to our game and I can spend hours trawling the internet for clips of old Sportscene and Scotsport shows, and with unmitigated glee will watch the highlights of Morton v Dundee United from 1984.

Yeah, I’ve got a really busy life at the moment.

This is why those of us of a certain vintage – let’s go with Lambrusco given the era we’re talking about – drone on about the league today could do with being more competitive because every season back then there was a title race, sometimes involving four teams.

There were some terrific players about.

Paul McStay, Charlie Nicholas, Paul Sturrock – who was a real hero of mine – Davie Cooper, Dave Narey, Mo Johnston and Ally McCoist to name just a few.

We had huge personalities such as Wallace Mercer who I am reliably told would invite cynical journalists to his office for a press briefing and then fill them with booze.

However, it was Aberdeen who really owned that decade. The team put together by Alex Ferguson changed Scottish football, knocked both Glasgow clubs on their backside, produced some world class – and that’s the correct term – footballers and beat Real Madrid in 1983 to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

But if you weren’t an Aberdeen fan, they were a hard team to love. I hated everything about them.

They were a cynical side who seemed to get away with murder. Ferguson was the Devil. And I hated all the Aberdeen strips the kids wore at my school, which was in the Southside of Glasgow.

But when John Hewitt’s spectacular diving header won them that final in Gothenburg, I was off my seat jumping around as if my team had just won a European trophy.

Age brings maturity, sort of, and over time I came to admire the remarkable job Ferguson did and even admitted, to myself of course, that Willie Miller, Alex McLeish, Eric Black and, yes, even Gordon Strachan were half-decent players.

But the one I disliked the most was Neale Cooper. Well, he kicked Charlie Nicholas six seconds into a match. Ya, boo and hiss.

Cooper, in fact, had this knack of annoying everyone. He was hard. By God, this lad loved a tackle. And he could play as well. We all wanted him in our team, even if nobody would say that out loud.

I told him all of this over a couple of pints in an Inverness tavern back in 2003. He was Ross County manager and his team were to play Rangers in a Scottish Cup tie that Sunday and so I was despatched north to speak to him.

Alas, I had been led astray the night before and, sensing my extreme discomfort, the man known as Tattie forcibly instructed that a few pints would straighten me up which we had after my interview was completed. That’s what kind of guy he was.

He loved being told how disliked he had been “I loved winding up you Weegies” and for such a scary footballer, he was completely different in person.

Tattie loved a laugh, was always smiling, and was simply just great company. I would never have described myself as a friend but he always seemed pleased to see me and a few more pints were sunk over the years.

But now he’s gone. At 54. It is not easy getting my head around such a larger than life character not being here anymore. How must his family be feeling.

The only consolation for those who knew him, even just a bit, is that we were lucky to have met a real hero of Scottish football in the 1980s. He was some man. A real gem.

A great northern light has gone out.


STEVEN Gerrard will begin his job as Rangers manager on Friday and has a to-do list longer than a Brian Eno concept album.

I have been bordering on negative about the appointment. However, as a bluenose pal of mine pointed out; after years of hurt, defeats and embarrassment, he and his fellow supporters should be allowed to be excited.

He is absolutely right. Gerrard being here is exciting, I don’t care what anyone says, and it’s going to be a fascinating watch over the coming months.