Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes will no longer have to look with envy at the training facilities his squad use in Dubai, because he will have his own £11.5 million facility this summer.
This is the third straight year the Dons have trained at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence in the United Arab Emirates.
It is a state-of-the-art facility that has been used by top clubs like Zenit St Petersburg, Red Bull Salzburg, West Ham, Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Training at the centre this week alongside the Reds are Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Tashkent, Brondby, Astana, Midtjylland and Shanghai.
The Australian national squad also used the complex recently as part of the build-up to their defence of the Asia Cup, with the finals in the United Arab Emirates now.
In previous years, training at this fantastic centre in Dubai only heightened the need for the Dons’ own training complex.
It also underlined the sense of how big an obstacle not having those facilities were to the club’s ambitions. No more.
McInnes and his squad can now look at the lush 3G training pitches on the outskirts of Dubai in the knowledge they will soon have access to similar facilities.
Aberdeen have already begun work on a training complex at Kingsford on the outskirts of the city, which is on track, during the close season.
It is phase one of a plan with a £40m 20,000-capacity stadium also proposed for the site.
McInnes said: “We have been successful on the pitch and managed to raise the standards in spite of not having the facilities others have.
“Being out in Dubai and working in those facilities does give you a real flavour of what having a training ground is like.
“Obviously the weather out in Dubai is much better, though.”
Aberdeen recently confirmed an additional £1m will be budgeted for the training facility to cover an upgraded specification for the 3G pitches, which includes irrigation and a hybrid surface with undersoil heating on one of the professional pitches.
Kingsford will include a training pavilion, groundsman’s accommodation, three professional training pitches, two 3G pitches and one grass pitch, the latter being mainly for use by Aberdeen FC Community Trust.
Chairman Stewart Milne insists delivering the training complex will be a “milestone” in the 116-year history of the club.
Had they failed to deliver, Milne feared the repercussions would have included losing out on potential signings.
Milne said: “It is absolutely crucial. We did go through a period a year or so ago when we saw what is available to other clubs and what other clubs have to work with. It does put things in perspective.
“When we get phase one delivered next summer that will be a massive milestone.”
Aberdeen’s 23-man squad arrived in Dubai in the early hours of yesterday morning, but were out on the pitches for a training session at 11.30am Dubai time.
There was a welcome return for winger Gary Mackay-Steven, who had been sidelined since suffering concussion with a head knock in the Betfred Cup final on December 2.
The Scotland international was knocked unconscious in the accidental clash with Celtic’s Dedryck Boyata and was taken to hospital.
The 28-year-old was released later that day but has missed the last eight games.
On his return to action after five weeks, Mackay-Steven came through light training.
He has been working in the gym and he hopes to be in contention for the Scottish Cup tie against Stenhousemuir on January 19.
McInnes said: “Gary had his boots back on and was doing a bit of work, so hopefully that is encouraging.”
Although McInnes put the Dons through their paces it was a relaxed session with players and coaches laughing and joking. And they had reason to be upbeat, with Mackay-Steven not the only player returning from injury out here in Dubai.
Centre-back Mikey Devlin also returned to training for the first time in six weeks.
The 25-year-old has been side-lined since suffering a foot ligament injury while training with Scotland ahead of the Uefa Nations League tie against Albania in mid-November.
It is understood Devlin is hopeful of being in contention for the fourth-round Scottish Cup tie next week.
Centre-back Mark Reynolds also came through full training. Reynolds had been ruled out since undergoing knee surgery last July.
On-loan Watford centre-back Tommie Hoban is also set to be in contention for the cup game.
Hoban had shoulder surgery in August for an injury sustained when scoring in a 1-1 draw with Hibs at Easter Road.
The defender underwent his rehabilitation at parent club Watford but will complete the season on loan at Aberdeen.
McInnes said: “Tommie Hoban joined us in training and we will probably have to make sure we gauge him carefully.
“It would be a bit ambitious to think he could do every session after being out for so long.
“Tommie had a big influence for us at the start of the season.
“It’s great to have him back.
“Tommie has had his troubles, but it’s great to have him back.”
Right-back Shaleum Logan worked separately with the physios in spells during training as he aims to shrug off a hamstring injury sustained in the 2-1 win at Livingston.
Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn also trained having missed the Livingston game, the last before the Premiership winter shutdown, with a groin strain.
Stevie May worked with the physios having picked up an ankle knock against Livingston.
McInnes said: “There are a couple of boys still with the physios, but Shay’s hamstring responded well.
“Niall McGinn’s groin responded well. Stevie May had a little bit of an ankle strain from the Livingston game and will stay with the physios for a few days.
“There are two or three of those lads still a bit short of joining in the full sessions, but hopefully that will come by the end of the week.”