Ebbe Skovdahl, former Aberdeen and Brøndby manager, dies at 75

Ebbe Skovdahl, the former manager of Aberdeen and Brøndby, has died at the age of 75 after a long illness.

Ebbe Skovdahl during his time in charge of Aberdeen
Ebbe Skovdahl during his time in charge of Aberdeen

His passing was confirmed by the Danish side, whom he led to four league titles, three cup wins, and several successes in European football.

Skovdahl arrived at Pittodrie in 1999 and took the Dons to the finals of the Scottish Cup and League Cup in 2000 during his first season in charge before departing in December 2002.

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A statement from Aberdeen read: “Everyone at Pittodrie is saddened to hear of the passing of our former manager, Ebbe Skovdahl at the age of 75.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Former Dons goalkeeper David Preece paid tribute on social media, writing: “I’m really saddened by this. So many ups and downs under Ebbe but will always be grateful to him for taking me to Aberdeen and glad I had the chance to tell him. Will never forget his Skovisms as long as I live.”

Leon Mike, who played 33 times for the Dons under Skovdahl, added: “Rest in peace, gaffer.”

Eoin Jess was midway through his second spell at Pittodrie when Skovdahl was appointed. He said: “Very sad news. He was one of the great characters that I have been involved with in football. A true gentleman. RIP Ebbe.”

‘Proud and grateful’

Although best remembered in Scotland for his time in charge at Aberdeen, arguably his most successful spell as a manager was his third spell at Brøndby between 1992 and 1999.

Speaking to the Danish side’s website his son Rene Skovdahl, who followed in his father’s footsteps by entering football management, said: "Our father was incredibly proud and grateful to have been part of the Brøndby family.

"His time in charge of Brøndby is one he has always remembered and looked back on fondly.

"He was very humble about his own role at the club, so when the Ebbe Skovdahl Fan Lounge at Brøndby Stadion was named after him three years ago, he was very honoured.

"Our father had cancer during the last years of his life, and as a family we have no doubt that the recognition he received with Ebbe Skovdahl Fan Lounge helped to give him some extra years, because it meant a lot to him that he still had an active role in the club.

"Over the years, we have seen and experienced up close how much our father meant to so many people, and that is something that we will hold dearly."

Career

After 130 amateur games for Vanløse IF, Skovdahl joined Brøndby in 1971. The club had been in existence for less than a decade following the merger of local rivals Brøndbyøster IF and Brøndbyvester IF in 1964 when Skovdahl joined and he later played alongside brother-in-law Finn Laudrup – father of Michael and Brian – who was installed as player-manager.

Laudrup led the fledgling club to promotion to the 3rd Division in 1974 before departing while Skovdahl, after some 89 matches as a player for Brøndby, was named coach of the club’s third team in 1977.

Benfica experiment

He had brief spells managing Hvalsø IF and Glostrup IC before making a mark with Brønshøj, whom he led to consecutive promotions to the then top tier of Danish football.

Skovdahl’s success earned him a recall to Brøndby and he laid the groundwork for a second league title in 1987 as well as taking the club to the quarter-finals of the 1986/87 European Cup. He was lured to Portugal to manage reigning champions Benfica but struggled to make an impact, lasting just half a year in Lisbon.

Brøndby success

Unsurprisingly, he returned to Brøndby and sealed his first honours with the club – the league title and Danish Cup. He left Brøndby for Vejle in the early Nineties but returned for a third time in 1992, winning Danish Manager of the Year for 1992/93 and overhauled the club’s tactical approach as he made his mark.

In seven years, Skovdahl led Brøndby to four league titles, three cup wins, and masterminded a host of impressive European results including victory against Liverpool in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup.

Aberdeen spell

He moved to Scotland to coach Aberdeen in 1999, and the Dons avoided a relegation play-off at the end of his first season despite finishing bottom as a result of Falkirk, second-tier champions, failing to meet the SPL’s stadium requirements.

Despite a less than successful tenure, Skovdahl was popular with the Aberdeen supporters and brought in numerous foreign players including Arild Stavrum and Hicham Zerouali. He guided the team to fourth in the league in 2001/02 after a mixed 2000/01 season that included a European exit at the hands of Irish club Bohemians but with the Bosman ruling preventing Skovdahl from following the same blueprint that had served him well at Brøndby, he signalled his intention to resign after a poor start to the 2002/03 campaign.

Final post

He was succeeded by Steve Paterson in December 2002, and took up his final managerial position with BK Frem the following year. Skovdahl attempted to save the club from relegation from the Danish second tier but failed and following a series of disputes with the board regarding long-term targets, he departed in the winter of 2005.

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