Dominic Ball is determined to prove himself at Pittodrie by securing a regular starting slot as the Dons go for glory.
Aberdeen will host Championship Dundee United in the Scottish Cup fifth round on Sunday as they bid to lift the trophy for the first time since 1990.
Last season Aberdeen suffered Hampden heartache in losing the final 2-1 to Celtic courtesy of an injury-time goal.
Ball has experienced his own Scottish Cup final pain.
While on loan at Rangers he missed out on the 2016 final through suspension having played a key role in the penalty shoot-out defeat of Celtic in the semi.
Rangers would go on to lose that final 3-2 to Hibs.
The Dons lured Ball back to Scotland on a loan deal from Rotherham until the end of the season and opened up the opportunity of another crack at getting his hands on a Scottish Cup winner’s medal.
The 22-year-old, who started the recent 3-1 defeat of Kilmarnock, initially found it difficult to become a regular in the Dons first team.
But now he feels better placed to challenge to be a regular for the rest of the season. The midfielder, who can also cover in defence, said: “When you go on loan you want to play every game, it’s as simple as that. You’ve come on loan to play every game.
“For me I haven’t done that and I think that is mainly down to me. I haven’t maybe performed as well as I should have.
“I think the standard and the quality of the player here are very good.
“Trying to get into midfield you’ve got Kenny McLean, Ryan Christie and Graeme Shinnie, all internationals, so it’s been a tough challenge.
“But I’m really looking forward to this half of the season, really pushing on now and getting a run of games.
“Sometimes it can take time for players to adapt – adapt to a club, a different league and a different style of play.
“For me it has taken a bit longer than I wanted. I want to play my part now and help the team go, and hopefully get second place and win the Scottish Cup.
“I want to prove to myself and prove to everyone that I can play consistently at this standard.”
Ball’s loan deal is up at the end of the season.
But he revealed he would be keen to remain with Aberdeen beyond the summer if he is given the chance.
Ball is under contract until 2019, so Rotherham may be keen to use him in the final year of his contract to see if they would offer him a new deal.
If he were offered the chance to stay at Pittodrie, Ball would be keen – but he doesn’t think he has done enough in a red shirt yet for the Dons to consider trying to keep hold of him.
He added: “I really enjoy the club, I like the staff and I like the players.
“I would never ever turn something like that down – if the option was ever there then I would seriously consider it.
“It is a really good club and this year we have got to try to win trophies.
“We’ve got to win the Scottish Cup and we’ve got to try to push Celtic for the title.
“It’s a very good club and I really enjoy it.
“The thing is they might not want me – I haven’t done enough here yet, nowhere near enough.
“That’s what I’m motivated for because it’s not a good feeling knowing that you’re not playing. It’s tough and I really do want to prove my part.”
Ball believes he has learned a lot from his loan spell with the Dons, even when he hasn’t been playing.
He admits he wasn’t as prepared as he thought for playing with the Reds and reckons he hasn’t taken his opportunities in the team when he’s been given them.
Ball said: “In football at the top you have to take your chance. I’ve learned a lot from my five months that I’ve been here and I didn’t take my chance.
“I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I needed to be.
“But over time, even when you’re sitting on the bench, you’re learning, looking at these players and what they are doing and how you can affect things.
“It’s all about development and sometimes in football it’s a rollercoaster – you go up for a while and then you’re going to have a dip.
“For a while now I’ve been on a little bit of a dip and it’s now that I’m looking at really pushing on.”
One thing that hasn’t surprised Ball is the standard of Scottish football.
He had a loan spell with Rangers in the Championship two seasons ago and says he discovered then how good football north of the border is, and he says that hasn’t changed.
“The first time I came up I found out it’s better than what it’s made out to be.
“I think the Premiership is a very good league and for a young player to come and play in it’s tough.
“But you see by the sort of moves people are getting to top clubs it’s a very good league and the standard – especially if you’re looking at Aberdeen, one of the top clubs, playing in Europe – it’s a very good standard and the players at this club are very good. That’s good for me, for example, getting better in training every day and in games.”
For Ball his time with Aberdeen has been another new experience in his development.
He said: “That’s why players go on loan (to gain experience). From Spurs I went to Cambridge in League Two and then I went to Rangers for a season. Then I signed for Rotherham and went on loan to Peterborough last year.
“Now I’m on loan here and it’s part of the process. At some point you will settle down somewhere.
“But for me at the moment it’s all about getting games and experiencing different things.
“You start to find out what you do best, where you’re going to be successful and where you’re happy. That’s the journey I’m on.”