Stefan Gartenmann lifts lid on Neil Warnock's Aberdeen FC reign and makes style confession that just 'didn't work'

Stefan Gartenmann pretty much witnessed it all at Aberdeen - from the Neil Warnock wobble to Hampden, Europe and the rattling of Rangers.

The defender, who was on loan from Midtjylland, had an eventful season at Pittodrie, from the high of scoring in a famous 3-1 win at Ibrox, playing in the group stages of the Europa Conference League and the Viaplay Cup final. There was also the alarming low when Aberdeen’s season came off the rails.

They brought in veteran Neil Warnock but he failed to win a Premiership game and he exited prematurely with the team perilously close to the relegation trapdoor. Warnock did get the Dons into the Scottish Cup semi-final but in the league his team sunk like a stone and he left after 34 days. First-team coach Peter Leven had to come in and salvage Aberdeen’s season. Gartenmann saw the confidence drain under Warnock and admitted his playing style was too direct and didn’t fit the players he had at Pittodrie.

The Dane said: “I am not going to put in all on Neil Warnock but the way we were playing at the time just didn’t work. With the players we had, it didn’t work.

“He wanted to play a lot simpler and you could see that. He took the centre halves in and he would kill us if we tried to dribble or pass it. He just wanted to put it forward. That was a big part of the reason why we struggled at that time.”

Aberdeen struggled to cope with the demands of European group stage football and their domestic commitments. Barry Robson lost his job and Gartenmann knows that spell at the start of the year, where Warnock came in and quickly departed, really felt like the deepest, darkest winter. Scotland was being hit by storms and the Dons team was also being battered.

Former Aberdeen manager Neil Warnock
Former Aberdeen manager Neil Warnock -Credit:Getty Images

The defender admitted: “January until the end of March wasn’t the greatest period. The teams we were playing and the pitches we were playing on weren't the best. A lot of our games were cancelled because of the storms and there was a lot of uncertainty off the pitch as well.

“Neil Warnock came in and that whole time was a bit of a mess. That showed in the way we performed at that time."

Rock bottom was the defeat at Dundee. Warnock had left and the Aberdeen fans chanted at their players: "You are not fit to wear the shirt.” Gartenmann was put in front of the press that night and had to admit the Red Army were right!

He recalled: “That wasn’t the greatest of nights. It was a tough time. We were worried as well.

“We were in a really bad place and everything looked really dark at that point. I am so happy we turned it around the way we did because we weren’t feeling great at that time.”

Leven held clear-the-air talks with his squad. They were in agreement they needed to get the ball down and play more football.

They got three points at Motherwell and went on a winning run in the league but it was a defeat - the penalty shootout semi-final defeat to Celtic - that probably gave them the biggest shot in the arm. They twice came behind to level and push Celtic all the way.

The former Dons player claimed: “It could have been the semi-final against Celtic because that was the first time for months where there were no talks of terrible pitches, wind, rain, of the pressure or the relegation zone. It was the first game in three or four months where it was all about what happened on the pitch and that football. That showed at Hampden.

“We went out and played freely and although we lost on penalties, I think that game was a wake up call. We knew after that there was so much more in the team and we had a bit more of a game plan after that.

“You could see that if we played in that actual way it worked and against good teams well. We took it into the bottom six and we started to win games. The confidence had been so low and our performance at Hampden, despite the result, gave us a boost. We took so much from that game.”

Gartenmann will always remember his goal at Ibrox in the 3-1 win over Rangers and the European nights, against Eintracht Frankfurt and PAOK will be big ones for him. He stated: “The first game at Ibrox was a big one. It was the first game for me where I witnessed the Aberdeen v Rangers rivalry and it was my first game at Ibrox. The performance that day helped.

“At the time, it felt we were ready to take off from there but we all know quite the opposite happened. That night it felt like something big was coming. The game away to Frankfurt was another big one. PAOK at home was also an eventful game.

“That was the best atmosphere I experienced at Pittodrie when we scored to make it 2-0 it was unbelievable. I don’t think I have experienced anything like that as a home team. Pittodrie is special on a European night.”

The other big moment for Gartenmann was at Hampden when Aberdeen beat Hibs in the Viaplay Cup semi-final thanks to Bojan Miovski’s goal, although the disappointment was losing the final to Rangers. Gartenmann admitted: “A few of the cup games stand out as well.

“The Hibs semi-final. I have seen Bojan’s goal back about 25 to 30 times. There is something magical about it. The cup final and semi-final with Celtic were big too. Those were the games that stand out and games I will never forget. The Aberdeen fans are special and the fan culture in Scotland is also amazing.”