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One legacy that emerged from the Aberdeen FC Centenary year in 2003 was the formation of the Aberdeen FC Former Players association. While several clubs particularly in England have developed similar schemes, the Aberdeen Association grew in its first year, with almost 200 members made up of players who have played for the Dons in the past. These players the clubs feels still have an important role to play and they can benefit from still being part of Aberdeen Football Club.

The association was the brainchild of AFC Heritage Trust Secretary Chris Gavin and was established with a working committee headed up by former Aberdeen FC player Duncan Davidson as Chairman supported by former Aberdeen FC players Jimmy Wilson and Ally Shewan. A new committee was formed in March 2018 and is made up of former Aberdeen FC players Jim George, Walker McCall, Steve Tosh and Jim Whyte, AFC Heritage Trust trustee Derek Giles and volunteer Stewart Eaton.

The Aberdeen FC Former Players association was formed on 26th November 2003, and membership remains opento all former Aberdeen FC players.


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Yashin, Puskas, Matthews and Kinnell?

George Kinnell served Aberdeen between 1959?1963 before joining Stoke City. Born in Cowdenbeath he signed for the Dons from Crossgates Primrose.George Kinnell

George developed as a centre half but during his Pittodrie career played in all five defensive positions as well as the occasional centre forward role. Before his move to Stoke in November 1963, George was made Aberdeen captain. George Kinnell also played for Middlesbrough and had a seven-year spell in Australia. He was also the cousin of the late Jim Baxter. George recently returned to Pittodrie for an interview with Kevin Stirling and he offered a fascinating insight to his football career?

Not many players get the opportunity to play with some of the best in the world but former Don George Kinnell was in exalted company after his move to Stoke in 1963. "My first game for Stoke was quite something. We were up against Benfica in a friendly and I was in direct opposition to Euesbio the great Portuguese forward. Of course friendly matches in those days were far more competitive and were treated like any other game - not like these days."

George had a spell in the Army before he was spotted by Aberdeen playing for junior side Crossgates Primrose. "George Hamilton came down to see me after Bobby Calder spotted me, next thing I knew was Davie Shaw turning up at the house wanting me to sign for Aberdeen. I was happy to do so as Aberdeen were a big club. I loved playing football and was used to playing for nothing. To get the chance to play professional was a great opportunity. When I came up here I loved the place. Davie (Shaw) the manager was funny bloke at times and I had a good feeling about the whole move."

Dave Shaw had a tough reputation as a trainer, a role that he relished at Pittodrie. Although it went wrong for him as a manager. "Yes, Davie could be a tough man but there was a lighter side to him. I remember being back for pre-season training he would have us running out the road up past Potterton. Davie would always take his push bike and he was always looking for a push which made the run all the more easier. I would usually volunteer to take a shot of Davie's bike and put it to good use! We used to train out there (pointing to the Main Stand car park), and that was what it was built for and the training was very hard, no doubt about that. Davie was a good coach though and he made sure we did the right things for the right reasons."

Pittodrie made an immediate impression on him. "The only grounds I had seen before Pittodrie was the likes of Central Park at Cowdenbeath, and I got a pleasant surprise when I came here. Pittodrie was not like it is now - there was only the Main Stand that was covered, the other three sides were just terracing and that gasometer of course!"

George went straight in to the reserve side for the rest of that season. "The first team reached the Cup Final against St Mirren and there was plenty of excitement around the place. The squad went down on the Friday night and stayed at Gleneagles while we went down on the Saturday." It was to be a huge disappointment , "For me personally it was a big disappointment. I had been playing regular in the reserves at right half and Ken Brownlee was at left half. With Ian Burns being injured for the Final I thought I was in the side but Ken got the nod."

In those days squad rotation was unheard of and it was a straight swap for replacements. "Yes that was the way of it usually, Ken was a bit more experienced than me so that was probably why he was picked ahead of me. However it was still a huge thrill to be there and it made me want some more of that. The Hampden crowd was huge and it was a marvellous occasion."

Not long after the Dons demise in the 1959 Cup Final Davie Shaw reverted to his trainers role and Tommy Pearson was appointed Aberdeen manager in a move that was as swift as it was surprising. "It was all sorted out beforehand and it was bad for us at the time because Tommy had been writing regularly for the papers and was highly critical of the team. There was friction between Davie and Tommy because of that, but they were brought together so we just had to get on with it."

The tensions between the manager and trainer had little effect on George. "We just got on with things that was the way I approached every game. As far as the Dons players were concerned at the time Fred Martin was still around, Jim Clunie was at centre half and Archie Glen, Bob Wishart and Jackie Hather were still there as well. Jimmy Hogg our full back was tremendous player and never really got the recognition he deserved. We still had the nucleus of a very good side. When I first broke through in to the side there were a few more experienced guys who brought me on a lot - always shouting and keeping you right. You don?t see much of that nowadays. The boys then were not the high paid stars you see today, we were all on the same wage, I mean look what happens these days, how can anyone in their right mind justify paying someone 100,000 a week? The game has lost a lot of passion."

George placed a high priority on team spirit. "That was crucial, it helped all of the first team being on the same wage, we felt we were a team and all in it together both in playing and socialising." As far as the Shaw-Pearson regime was concerned there were marked differences to their approach - "I would have to say that Tommy was more tactical than Davie. Tommy would discuss the opposition before games but of course it all depended on who we were playing. As I say the manager can tell you anything he likes, but once you are out there you were on your own. The manager's influence in those days was not near as important as it is now?there was little he could do sitting in the dug out. Any changes during a game were down to the captain. Archie (Glen) was my first skipper and he was a real leader. His role was far more involved than just spinning a coin before the start. Far more important than these days, things could happen during a game and Archie would have to make a judgement call for the good of the team."

While there was a serious side to the game there were also plenty of jokers in the pack. "Hughie Baird was something else, a right comedian. He was that bit older and always up to all kinds of stuff. Tommy Ring the ex-Clyde winger was another. We used to have to run around the park and we were always lagging behind, Hughie, Jimmy Hogg and I. Little Tommy was always out in front and he was well known for liking a drink - you could smell him a mile away; he was some player though."

As far as games against the Old Firm were concerned they held few fears. "We loved going down to Ibrox and Parkhead, the big crowds and all that - I loved playing against them. A lot of people seemed to hate going down there. Reggie (Morrison) used to shake like a leaf going down there - he had to get his boot laces tied once or twice! Once he got on the park he was fine - like I say we used to love going into battle against them. The crowd would get on to you but we responded to that. The ball would go in to the 'jungle' at Parkhead and I would just front them out, no problem. There was no fear although the crowd were hard on away teams. We would gee ourselves up for those games and after all it was just eleven against eleven - they were nothing special. It is different now. I remember Ebbe Skovdahl not so long ago stating that a five-goal defeat was acceptable down there. Why? It is down to the players on the park and the last thing they want to hear is stuff like that. If they have not got the heart then why bother?"

As far as George is concerned there were no real bogey teams or difficult grounds, an honest approach that stood him well in his career. "I never really gave that a second thought, we would go out do our best no matter where it was. We would always catch the 9am train from Aberdeen on the Saturday morning and it was always a rush to catch the 5.30pm connection after the game. The only time I recall going down on the Friday night was to Clyde for a cup-tie and we drew 2-2 at Shawfield and the directors, manager and players got slaughtered in the press for it. That lasted right up until the replay on the Tuesday night. James Forbes wrote in the Evening Express criticising the manager and I pulled him up about it and had a go at him for his criticism of the manager. I told him it was down to us and he was well out of order. We responded in the best possible fashion by hitting Clyde for ten in the replay - that soon shut them up."

George played in several positions for the Dons and his versatility also saw him enjoy the occasional striking role "I scored a fair share of goals during my time. I loved it up there - I remember two hat tricks against Partick and Le Harve in particular. I knew how defenders played and that helped me a lot as a forward. I also scored a few penalties as well?always placed to my right and aimed for the stanchion and always hit hard. I remember when Kilmarnock were representing Scotland in a tournament in New York and it was a regular thing. Partick were lined up in their place one year but that soon changed after I scored three against them and Kilmarnock went in their place."

George admitted to feeling additional pressure playing for the Dons during a difficult period for the club."Yes it was a problem that said we played without fear but felt that additional burden as we were struggling near the foot of the table. We would still be able to put in a good performance, especially against the Old Firm. We still managed to go to Ibrox and do them though, the big crowds helped even though they did not like us much. I also remember hammering Rangers 6-1 at Pittodrie; it made no difference that we were playing at home as there was usually a big crowd behind us at Pittodrie for those games. What does the ground hold now? 23,000? Back then it was more than 50,000 and almost all standing. I read in the paper the other day there could be 21,000 in here soon, is that because Elton John is coming?"

Contrary to what many believe, George never asked away from the Dons as his transfer to Stoke came about in 1963. "I was up in Rosemount Viaduct sitting having a drink in the bar below the Silver Slipper. My girlfriend was working in the hairdresser next door and I was taking her to the pictures later on. It was a Monday night and my girlfriend came running in to the bar telling me that Pittodrie was on the phone and that I had to speak to them urgently. I was with Ron Main of the Daily Express and Jimmy Forbes. When I answered the phone it was Tommy Pearson telling me that Stoke City were phoning back in half an hour and that they wanted to sign me. I went straight down to Pittodrie and spoke further with Tommy. I asked about the fee involved and what I would be getting out of the deal. He told me all I would get would be the usual 750 loyalty payment that all Aberdeen players received after five years at the club. I then decided to speak to Davie Shaw who was still out there training the part time players in the evening. Davie told me to stick it out and get a decent deal. Eventually I told Tommy he had better get Dick Donald down here because I was not accepting the offer. We would usually get around 5% from any transfer deal and we eventually agreed on a deal."

It seemed that Aberdeen were happy enough to let their captain go. "Well it was good business for the club as they got me for 200 and sold me for 35,000. It seemed to be a habit at the time, Doug Fraser was sold to West Brom and Charlie Cooke was allowed to leave for Dundee. That all happened when 'Tu'penny Tam' (Tommy Pearson) as I called him was in charge. I was still disappointed to leave the Dons but Stoke were a big club in English football then and it was a great challenge for me. They still had Stanley Matthews in their side. The transfer was completed quickly and I was on the 6.30am flight the next morning to get to Stoke and have a look around the place. I did not know that much about them but they had good players like Denis Violet and Maurice Setters. My first game was against Benfica and it was a great experience and soon I was playing against some top sides. During my time at the Victoria Ground I played in Stan Matthew's testimonial and it was England against a Rest of the World XI. I was in the select side along with the likes of Lev Yashin and Ferenc Puskas. It was a marvellous experience." George was never intimidated to be in amongst some of the greatest players in the world - "To be honest I just treated it like any other game and enjoyed the occasion."

Two years later George was on his travels again but there was nothing so clear cut about his eventual switch to Sunderland. "I was at Stoke for a couple of years before I went to Oldham. Sunderland had wanted me but Stoke were not keen in selling me to one of their main rivals. Jimmy McIlroy was manager at Oldham and I had played with him at Stoke - the move was manipulated so I could go to Poker Park, no doubt about that. Ian McColl, the former Scotland manager was in charge at Sunderland and he wanted to bolster his Scottish contingent at the club. Charlie Hurley was injured and I was brought in to replace him. Tony Waddington the Stoke boss tried to 'do' me over the move but I stood my ground with him and sorted it. With no agents at that time you did any deals yourself. Roker Park was a great place to play football with a great atmosphere?they were a passionate lot. We had a number of Scots there - Jim Baxter, George Mulhall, Neil Martin and John O?Hare. There was also a difference between the game down there as there was a bit more quality. With no wage cap in place there was also a lot of good Scottish players playing in England. Every top club had at least two or three in their side. Of course there was a lot of banter between the Scots and English lads but never nothing nasty."

Full international honours eluded George during his career and although he would not admit it from a personal perspective, he clearly felt there was bias shown towards selection. "I was selected to play for the Scottish League against Northern Ireland in Belfast. I was playing quite well at the time and I was honoured to represent my country. However because I was not wearing blue or green my chances were limited."

While George may not bear any grudges it was still a sore point that any player outside of the Old Firm would have to do something special to get recognition - "It was the power of the press in full flow. The newspapers in Glasgow had a huge bearing on the national side. The Scottish team was picked by a group of selectors and they had been influenced by what they read every day. If you played in the blue and white of Rangers or the green and white of Celtic your Scotland chances improved dramatically -no doubt about it. A lot of good players never got the honours they deserved. The best uncapped full back in Britain was Aberdeen's Jimmy Hogg."

At the age of 31, Middlesbrough was the last stop for George. "When I was released I had the chance to go to Australia and it was a good offer. With two young children it was a chance I felt I had to take. So I went there and played with Juventus of Melbourne. The standard over there was not that good but it has improved dramatically in recent years. Of course Aussie Rules football is the major attraction over there. That Zdrilic who is here at Pittodrie now - what is he cold for? He should put himself about a bit more if he is that cold! I did some coaching in Australia and my time there lasted seven years and it was a great experience."

George Kinnell remains a regular visitor to Pittodrie these days. "I settled back in this area in 1978 and I have been coming to Pittodrie for years although I stopped when Ian Porterfield was here. Nothing personal as I actually played with Ian at Sunderland but the Dons team under him was as laid back as he was!"

And what of the present Aberdeen side? "I think some of them need to mature a lot and quickly. Russell Anderson is a good player but he has to take the responsibility to organise his defence better. He is the captain and with that should come more organisation. That is down to him on the pitch. I think he has to do that - you don't lose a goal, you don't lose the game, you must start from the back and work your way forward. Young Diamond needs some encouragement and I reckon he could become a great Aberdeen player."

George Kinnell was talking to Kevin Stirling at Pittodrie on 12th March 2004.