New signing Leigh can bring speed, energy and quality

New Aberdeen signing Greg Leigh.
New Aberdeen signing Greg Leigh.

Dons boss Derek McInnes today insisted new signing Greg Leigh can provide the same speed, energy and quality as Max Lowe.

Former Manchester City left-back Leigh was secured on a season-long loan deal from Dutch side NAC Breda.

McInnes attempted to land Leigh on a permanent contract but has the option to sign him for a “small fee” next summer.

Leigh made an impressive Dons debut when starting the 0-0 draw with Connah’s Quay Nomads in Cork.

McInnes had been keen to secure Derby left-back Lowe’s return to Pittodrie following a successful loan last season.

However, any decision by Derby on Lowe, who is also wanted by Celtic and Rangers, was likely to go well into August.

McInnes needed a left-back signed for the RoPS clash and resurrected the interest in Leigh, who he tried to sign last summer and in January.

Leigh was tonight set to play against Peterhead at Balmoor as the Dons continue their preparations for Europe.

Aberdeen face RoPS Rovaniemi in the Europa League first qualifying round first leg at Pittodrie on July 11.

McInnes said: “Greg Leigh is someone who we think can bring us the speed, energy and quality from the side.

“He can play left of a back three, he can play left back in a back four and he can play left wing back.

“Greg has good versatility and also gives us great athleticism.

“We needed a left back in.

“We had Max (Lowe) here last season providing that real speed and width on the side.

“We are delighted to capture Greg and hopefully he can give us something similar.”

McInnes had attempted to sign Leigh on a permanent deal this summer.

The full-back is contracted to NAC Breda, who were relegated from the Dutch top flight last season, until summer 2021.

Aberdeen have the option to sign him on a permanent deal next summer for a “small fee”.

McInnes said: “We tried to do it as a permanent deal but we have the option of that at the end of the season. While it is a loan for Greg, it is a loan that we are in charge of.

“We can decide at the end of the season if we want to pay the small fee to NAC Breda.”

Leigh was one of five summer signings handed Dons debuts against Connah’s Quay Nomads with Curtis Main, Jon Gallagher, Ryan Hedges and Ash Taylor also featuring.

It was the second Dons debut for centre-back Taylor, who rejected a new contract at Pittodrie in 2017 before signing for Northampton Town.

Summer signing Craig Bryson was ruled out of the friendly in Cork with an ankle ligament injury sustained in April with Derby County.

That ruled Bryson out of the Rams’ run to the Championship play-off final at Wembley where they lost to Aston Villa.

Bryson will miss tonight’s friendly against the Blue Toon at Balmoor but could feature in Saturday’s game with Inverness Caley Thistle at Elgin.

Left-back Leigh started against the Welsh side in Cork and delivered an impressive performance where he was strong in the air and defensively solid.

McInnes is confident Leigh will also be an attacking threat this season and has challenged him to push on to effectively double up as a winger.

He said: “Greg is going to be a good player for us.

“I feel he has more to offer in an attacking sense and we will see that when a game opens up a little bit.

“He has great legs, good confidence in the final third and he will show that this season.

“We are delighted to get him. Greg will offer us more of an attacking threat than he showed.”

Leigh emerged through the youth ranks at Manchester City and played four times for the first team in friendlies in 2014 under Manuel Pellegrini. After more than a decade at the Premier League champions he left to sign for Bradford City.

After a season at Bradford he was offered a new contract but opted to move to Bury where he spent two seasons.

Leigh was on McInnes’ radar last summer but he opted to sign a three year contract with NAC Breda, making more than 20 appearances in the Dutch top flight.

McInnes resurrected his interest in the full-back in January when Lowe returned to Derby after a half season loan.

When Lowe returned to Derby any hopes of another loan at Aberdeen seemed dashed as he played twice for the Rams first team during the winter window.

However, when former England international Ashley Cole was signed as left-back cover, the door opened for Lowe’s return to the Granite City.

“Greg is someone who we have monitored for a while,” said McInnes.

“It is good to have a full-back of Greg’s type in the squad. What you want from your full backs is to be the best defender one on one and he has good tenacity and we will try to improve him on that as well.

“We also want him to be like a winger in the opposition half and he has that. It is getting the balance right.”

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