Eintracht Frankfurt v Aberdeen: Veterans recall 1979 'coming of age' loss

Eintracht Frankfurt's Cha Bum-Kun, Werner Lorant, goalscorer Bernd Hoelzenbein and Bernd Nickel celebrate in the 1980 Uefa Cup final
Cha Bum-Kun (left) was prominent in Eintracht Frankfurt's win over Aberdeen - and the defeat of Borussia Moenchengladbach in the final

Europa Conference League Group G: Eintracht Frankfurt v Aberdeen

Venue: Frankfurt Stadion, Frankfurt Date: Thursday, 29 September Kick-off: 17:45 BST

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra/DAB/810MW, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.

Aberdeen go into Thursday's Europa Conference League Group G opener away to Eintracht Frankfurt as underdogs.

But this is not uncharted territory for the Dons. It is 44 years since the clubs locked horns for the first time - across two legs in the first round of the Uefa Cup in 1979.

The game came early in what was the second season of Sir Alex Ferguson's glory-laden spell as he began to mould a side that would be crowned Kings of Europe in 1983.

Here, three Pittodrie heroes of that era share their recollections.

Willie Miller, captain & defender: "With a manager like Alex Ferguson, you felt you were going places but, at the same time, there will still these major hurdles and obstacles to get over.

"I think it was the start of a journey, a journey where we knew we were going to be asked questions - and the Eintracht Frankfurt game was just one of these occasions where we knew the question was going to be asked, but we weren't ready to answer it in a proper fashion."

Bobby Clark, goalkeeper: "It was a team that was still just coming together. There were a few boys that were just starting to burst onto the scene.

"I think Alex Ferguson was really getting true confidence in himself and the team maybe getting confidence in Alex as well. It was a two-way thing. We always thought at that time we could beat anyone."

Having been knocked out of the European Cup Winners' Cup by Fortuna Dusseldorf (3-2 agg) the previous season, the Dons were hoping to fare better against German opposition this time.

John McMaster, midfielder: "Dusseldorf gave us a hammering 3-0 (first leg), oh wow, and then Frankfurt came on the scene and we were a wee bit wary because the Germans are true professionals, they have got to be perfect with everything.

"They probably looked at the Dusseldorf result and thought 'Dusseldorf dealt with that and we are higher up in the league'."

Clark: "That pre-season we had gone to Denmark and won all our games, then we played Leicester City (1-1), Tottenham Hotspur (won 2-0), Coventry City (won 4-1). We were a pretty confident team at that time."

Aberdeen were looking to make home advantage count in the first leg. However, the Germans took the lead after just 12 minutes through South Korean striker, Cha Bum-Kun.

Miller: "It was frightening at times trying to deal with him. He was the one that really caused us an awful lot of problems with his directness, with his pace, maybe a little bit like Duk is now for Aberdeen. When he got the ball, he just wanted to get the head down, he wanted to take you on for pace and we struggled to control him."

McMaster: "'We had big Cha to deal with. He was the quickest guy I have seen. Stuart Kennedy is quick, but Cha gave him a run for his money, although Stuart eventually dealt with him.

'If you say that to Stuart now, he would maybe turn round and say he had him his pocket. Maybe he had an ankle in his pocket, I don't know."

Legendary Aberdeen striker Joe Harper netted early in the second half to ensure it finished 1-1 on the night. But, with Frankfurt leaving the Granite City with a crucial away goal, the Dons knew they had it all to do in Germany a fortnight later.

Miller: "That belief was there. You don't play under Alex Ferguson without belief.

"It was tight, there was a possibility of overturning it, but we were going to have to be at our very best to do that."

Clark: "We felt quite good about ourselves. We knew it was going to be a tough game, they had some excellent players; [Jurgen] Grabowski and [Bernd] Holzenbein - German internationals who were well known to us. And they had [Bruno] Pezzey, the big Austrian sweeper.

"We realised from the first game that Cha Bum-Kun was a handful, so we knew it was a good team, but we had played and controlled other good teams."

But it wasn't to be - a second-half strike from Holzenbein settled the second leg, ensuring it was Eintracht Frankfurt who progressed 2-1 on aggregate. The Germans went on to lift the trophy.

Clark: "I thought we were in it right to the end, pushing really hard for the equaliser and they were quite happy for the last little bit just to survive."

McMaster: "If we had got the goal over there, we might have won it, because we weren't overawed at all. They didn't know us and I don't think they respected us enough over there because, if they respected us, they might have beaten us by more, if you know what I mean."

While it was a European adventure that would end in early disappointment, those involved believe it was a valuable experience.

Ferguson's team famously made it to Gothenburg in 1983, when they defeated Real Madrid to win the European Cup Winners' Cup - before they got their hands on the European Super Cup later that year.

McMaster: "That was when we became a well-known team I would say, because people recognised the result. They must have thought 'Aberdeen are not a bad side'. I think that gave us a bit of respect."

Clark: "I remember reading after Eintracht won the Uefa Cup, their coach said their hardest game had been against Aberdeen. That was the beginning of Aberdeen coming of age."

Miller: "I think it was one where, at the end of it, you are looking back and you are saying 'that was a close tie but we are still not good enough to get over that hurdle' and it was another few years before we felt that was the case.

"We still had to take some lessons, the Liverpool lesson [lost 5-0 on agg] was another learning process, but when you amass all that experience in Europe and you add a blend of youth into the team, eventually we got there and we got our revenge in 1983 against Bayern Munich [European Cup Winners Cup quarter-finals] and Hamburg [to win the European Super Cup]."