New signing Chris Forrester was today challenged to rediscover the form that made him the hottest prospect in the League of Ireland.
Such was Forrester’s potential Dons boss Derek McInnes attempted to sign him more than four years ago.
Ultimately Aberdeen lost out on the playmaking midfielder because they could not afford the transfer fee wanted by St Patrick’s Athletic.
Forrester helped St Pat’s win the top-flight title before transferring to Peterborough United in League One for an undisclosed fee in 2015.
Following Peterborough’s decision to transfer list Forrester this season, McInnes moved to finally secure his man for £200,000 in a deal until summer 2021.
Forrester is back in his home country Republic of Ireland with the Dons at a pre-season training camp in Cork.
He is set to make his debut in a friendly against Cobh Ramblers on Saturday.
It is a long-awaited appearance in a Dons shirt McInnes hoped would materialise back in 2014.
Forrester underlined his potential by scoring for St Pat’s in a 2-2 friendly draw with Aberdeen in Dublin in July 2014. But McInnes had made a move before then. He said: “I knew about Chris back then (July 2014) because I had been speaking to his agent.
“We were well aware that Chris was making headlines in the League of Ireland and was having that exposure. He was seen as the next one that was going to come across the water and get a transfer.
“We looked at Chris then and liked him but couldn’t afford the transfer fee that eventually took him away.
“We had been well aware of Chris before we played St Pat’s in that friendly.”
In his first season in England the 25-year-old midfielder was a stand-out for Peterborough and forced his way into the Republic of Ireland squad.
He received a first international call-up in March 2016 for friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia as part of the Euro 2016 build-up.
Forrester has yet to be capped. But his form saw him appointed Peterborough captain.
Following Forrester’s impressive performance in a 4-1 FA Cup defeat to Premier League Chelsea in January 2017, Posh owner Darragh MacAnthony insisted the midfielder “would go on to be sold for millions and millions”.
Less than 18 months later McInnes swooped to secure him for £200,000.
Now the Reds boss has urged Forrester to not only recreate that form that saw Peterborough rate him at around £4m. He also wants the Dubliner to produce the strongest season of his career to date, starting with the Europa League second qualifying round clash against Premier League Burnley next month.
On the multi-million price tag of 2017, McInnes said: “He has found himself in a place where he is not that at the minute.
“Chris had been playing a different type of role and had found himself a wee bit out of favour there (at Peterborough).
“That can happen sometimes with a player.
“I am hoping Chris sees this season as going to be the best of his career so far.
“If he can get to what we think he is capable of then we have a very good player in the squad.
“One who is capable of helping us.”
Forrester is one of three midfielders signed by McInnes in what will be a busy summer transfer window. Another Dubliner, Stephen Gleeson, penned a two-year deal.
Republic of Ireland international Gleeson, 29, was a free agent having left Ipswich at the end of last season. Also secured was 18-year-old Lewis Ferguson from Hamilton.
The Scots clubs have failed to agree a training compensation package for Hamilton and it is set to go to a tribunal to decide the fee.
McInnes and Aberdeen are confident they have done their due diligence and the tribunal will reach a fee closer to their valuation than Accies.
The Dons initially offered in excess of £100,000 with Hamilton understood to be seeking around £900,000.
All three new signings are with the Dons at their training camp at Fota Island Resort in Cork.
McInnes said: “Midfield was an area of the team that needed addressed. We have brought in three players at different stages of their careers.
“However, they have all came in with the same intention of progressing their own careers and helping us at the same time.
“They all have their own qualities to show and I am sure they will do that in an Aberdeen shirt.”
McInnes aims to secure further signings before facing Burnley in Europe.
He aims to sign another defender, ideally a full-back.
Despite already signing three midfielders McInnes remained keen on securing Hibs’ Dylan McGeouch.
The Reds had offered the Scotland international the chance to become the club’s top earner should he opt to move to Pittodrie. However, they look set to lose out in the race for McGeouch, whose Easter Road contract expires at the end of the month. The 25-year-old has held talks with Sunderland.
Rangers, Fulham and Blackburn are also interested in the midfielder.