Aberdeen v Montrose 1903/04
Aberdeen v Montrose 1903/04It has not been that often that Aberdeen have clashed with Montrose in competitive matches in the past. However in their first season in existence Aberdeen found Montrose a real handful as Kevin Stirling looks back…
While the general belief is that the first ever-competitive meeting between the clubs was at Pittodrie in a Scottish Cup-tie back in 1986, Montrose actually clashed with Aberdeen in the Dons first season in 1903/04. While it was in the hugely unpopular Northern League they were certainly deemed to be competitive fixtures. Aberdeen had just come through the amalgamation process that saw the original Aberdeen FC join forces with Victoria Utd and Orion. This came about when previous attempts by all three clubs to gain entry in to the Scottish League had failed. The authorities had told the Aberdeen clubs that unless a united front could be shown then there was little prospect of any side from Aberdeen being successful. After prolonged debate the three clubs eventually agreed to put their differences behind them and pool their resources to gain entry in to the national leagues. Their first attempt failed hence the clubs first season in the Northern League. That league was made up of clubs from the Aberdeen, Angus, Tayside and Fife areas and was certainly a poor relation to the Scottish League. Nevertheless Aberdeen joined Montrose, Arbroath, Stenhousemuir, Dundee 'A', Cowdenbeath, Dundee Wanderers, Dunfermline, St Johnstone, Lochgelly, Forfar and Lochee Utd.
The first meeting between the clubs was at Pittodrie on 14th November 1903 in a Northern League match. It was significant for the Aberdeen club as manager Philip handed a first team debut to 'Gowie' Robertson a recent signing who took over the problem left half position for Aberdeen. The 'Whites' of Aberdeen had been struggling in the league and had to face fierce criticism from their supporters who had expected more from what was the best set of players in the area. Aberdeen went some way to silencing their critics with a convincing 4-2 win over Montrose. Captain Willie MacAulay scored in each half while Henry Low scored from two penalty awards. The Aberdeen side that day was; Barrett, J Mackie, McNicol, Low, Strang, Robertson, Shinner, C Mackie, D MacKay, MacAulay, Johnston. While the win was welcomed around Pittodrie there remained doubts as one post match report declared-"In looking back over the Northern league results over the past few weeks, it can't be ignored the glorious opportunities that Aberdeen have allowed to slip through their grasp. Their latest achievement in getting the better of Montrose is however a step in the right direction, but even that victory was greatly demeaned on account of the drubbing inflicted upon the Montrose the previous week against Dundee's reserve team."
A week later it was Montrose who turned the tables on Aberdeen at Links Park as the visitors capitulated in a 4-1 win for the 'Gable Endies.' It only highlighted the inconsistency of Aberdeen who had rarely lifted themselves in to a challenging position in their first season. To rub salt in to the Aberdeen wound it was former Aberdeen player Roddy MacKay, now of Montrose that inflicted the most damage. Also in the Montrose team were Aberdonians McHardy and Henderson who both were rejected at Pittodrie and took great delight in proving a point. Even with Scottish international keeper Frank Barrett in their side, Aberdeen had no answer on the day and Montrose deserved their emphatic win. The Aberdeen team that lost at Links Park was; Barrett, McGregor, McNicol, Low, Strang, Robertson, Shinner, C Mackie, D MacKay, MacAulay, Johnston. It was on the back of this result that Aberdeen shareholders held an emergency meeting such was the crisis at that time. The fact that several ex-Aberdeen players had helped Montrose to such an emphatic win cast doubts as to the wisdom of the Aberdeen directors who at that time picked the side each week.
At that meeting there were certainly some harsh words for the Aberdeen board, one report stated-"While excuses may have to be found for the team's lack of success, it seems that the directors of the club perhaps don't share the supporters enthusiasm. While they hope to raise the standard of football in the north there are few signs that Aberdeen deserve to be brought in to the Scottish league given that they can't even find success in the Northern division. One reason put forward was that all of the best professionals had been snapped up before Aberdeen could approach them. While that point may be valid it was suggested that the club should have concentrated more on the local players rather than scour the country for players that might not even be available. It seems that the directors need to take notice before we can ever hope to bring any kind of success to the area."
Aberdeen went on to finish in third place in the Northern League in what was their only season there before being admitted to the Scottish league in 1904. Montrose went on to win the league with 34 points from their 22 games with archrivals Arbroath in second place. The League finished;
© Kevin Stirling