presented by
Dons in fighting mood

‘Probably the biggest game of our careers’

Flawed as the enduring stereotype may be, the Scots are generally regarded as thrifty folk, never willing to spend a penny more than absolutely necessary. The people of Aberdeen are said to be the most careful of the lot, truly parsimonious even among an already frugal bunch. But stereotypes are usually out of date, and the Aberdeen party travelling for the UEFA Cup Round of 32 return in Munich seem determined to prove just that. The Scots chose to arrive two days ahead of the match rather than the customary one, and then set up camp at the Bayrische Hof Hotel, one of the most exclusive and expensive establishments in the Bavarian capital.

The reason for the largesse is simple. “This is one of the biggest games in the history of our club,” explained director of football Willie Miller. “It’s he most important match we’ve played in recent years,” added Dons managing director Duncan Fraser.

Calderwood’s butterflies

Thursday’s meeting with Bayern at the Allianz Arena has taken on historic proportions for Aberdeen. Following last week’s 2-2 draw at Pittodrie, the Scots fancy their chances of emulating the legendary generation who eliminated Bayern at the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final stage 25 years ago, although that would require today’s largely untried squad registering the club’s first win on German soil at the tenth time of asking.

“This is probably the biggest game of our careers, so we’re going to enjoy it,” declared veteran Barry Nicholson ahead of his team’s training session at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday evening. “It's a fabulous stadium and it's great for the boys to be here and play against a fantastic team like Bayern. We’re all looking forward to it, and we’ll go out there and try and win the game,” remarked coach Jimmy Calderwood, who earlier confessed to “butterflies in my stomach“ before joining the 22-man squad for the flight from Scotland to Bavaria.

Attacking pledge

Calderwood will call for equally gritty determination from much the same starting eleven as last week, as his players seek “to cause Bayern a few problems. We’ll get at them whenever we have the chance,” Nicholson promised. Calderwood confirmed the attacking approach, with probable starts for first leg goalscorers Josh Walker, who turned 19 on Tuesday, and Sone Aluko, who celebrates the same birthday on the day of the match.

Calderwood feels Aberdeen no longer have the element of surprise on their side, and regards Bayern as a tougher proposition with the return of Mark van Bommel and Willy Sagnol from injury. “But we’ve prepared well and we’re optimistic,” the coach insisted, after joining the travelling party for a tour of a Munich-based automobile plant on Wednesday morning.

Hard-edged Diamond

The Dons camp hardly appears nervous ahead of the match at the 66,000 capacity stadium in the north of Munich. “The pressure’s on Bayern. We’ll have to play exactly the way we did at Pittodrie, and then we’ll see if we can take anything from the game,” declared defender Zander Diamond, readying himself for another physical bout with Bayern striker Luca Toni. “I don’t think Bayern like it when you get stuck in.“

Aberdeen’s generosity in the build-up to the match seemingly knows no bounds. With no British broadcaster opting to show the game live, the Dons dipped into their own pockets to help cover the licensing and broadcasting costs, with a little help from Bayern.

6,000-strong ‘Red Army’

“Uli Hoeneß is well aware of the importance of the game to our supporters and was delighted with the way Bayern were treated in Scotland last week, so he personally intervened and reduced their fee. With a not insubstantial financial contribution from ourselves, Setanta were in a position where they felt it was important to show it. This is the Dons most important match for many years and we are delighted that everyone who wants to see the game should be able to do so,” Fraser was quoted as saying on the club website. And as if finally to nail any lingering reputation for meanness, more than 6,000 Aberdeen diehards will make their way to the Allianz Arena on Thursday.