2001-02 saw a dramatic return to form for an Aberdeen side that had been finding the going pretty tough for the best part of six years.
Since winning the League Cup and finishing third in season 1995-96, the Dons had spent the rest of the 1990s in the bottom half of the table, including a last-place finish in 1999-00.
Danish manager Ebbe Skovdahl was well liked by the Aberdeen support despite the disappointing league finishes. Under his stewardship he had introduced a lot of young players to the team, and there was an acceptance among the fans that this was a long-term project. 2001-02 was the season that all his good work would come to fruition.
The team contained a host of young players who had been blooded over the previous few seasons, including Russell Anderson, Kevin McNaughton, Phil McGuire, Darren Mackie, Derek Young, Darren Young, Chris Clark, Jamie McAllister, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Fergus Tiernan, Calum Bett and Ryan Esson.
To help them out, Skovdahl had brought in 36-year-old Danish international goalkeeper Peter Kjaer, tenacious Belgian midfielder Roberto Bisconti, explosive Moroccan forward Hicham Zerouali, former Manchester United star Ben Thornley, Norwegian veteran Thomas Solberg, and his countryman Cato Guntveit, and enigmatic frontman Eugene Dadi.
Forward Robbie Winters and defender Derek Whyte provided continuity, having joined the club in the late 1990s.
The kit for the season was a fairly simple affair of plain red with white trim. It was manufactured by Le Coq Sportif and sponsored by Aberdeen Fabrications, or A-Fab as they were known. The badge was in the centre of the strip for the first time since 1997, and the background of the badge had returned to its traditional red, after several seasons experimenting with white.
The season started ominously with three straight defeats - to Rangers, Hearts and Hibernian - and no goals scored, but from there Aberdeen lost just one of their next nine matches, putting four past Motherwell and Dundee, and three past Dunfermline and Hearts.
It was the Dons’ home form that was particularly impressive. As Christmas approached, they were on the verge of history, having won eight consecutive home matches and in need of just one more to equal a club record of nine set by Alex Ferguson’s legendary side in 1983-84. Standing in their way were reigning champions Celtic, who had won 19 of their last 20 league matches and were unbeaten in the SPL since May.
With snowfall lying heavily around the pitch and Christmas just three days away, Aberdeen turned in one of their best performances for a decade as goals from Robbie Winters and Darren Mackie sealed a 2-0 win, despite Derek Whyte being sent off. The defeat turned out to be Celtic’s only league loss in the whole campaign, and it wrote the names of Aberdeen’s players into the record books. At full time they celebrated in style, getting down on their knees to do the famous ‘caterpillar crawl’.
Defeat at home to Livingston in their next home match meant the run finally came to an end, but their good form didn’t, and they finished the season in fourth place, securing a return to European football in the process.