Pittodrie’s emerging talents have been urged to use Scotland cap Scott McKenna as inspiration in realising their Dons’ first-team dream.
Eight teenage hopefuls have this week graduated from the Aberdeen youth academy to go full-time at the Reds.
The potential stars of the future are midfielders Tyler Alexander, Max Barry, Connor Barron, Lewis Duncan, winger Sean Linden, striker Kieran Shanks and defenders Jack Chesser and Lloyd Robertson.
For each aspiring teen the ultimate ambition is to become a first-team regular.
Boss Derek McInnes insists they only have to look at centre-back McKenna to see what is possible.
McKenna has emerged through the Pittodrie youth ranks to become not just a first-team regular in the recent season but one of the hottest prospects in the Premiership.
Aberdeen rejected four bids from Hull City for the centre-back in January with the highest approach in excess of the £1 million mark.
McKenna has been named in the Scotland squad for the upcoming friendlies in South America against Peru (May 30) and Mexico (June 2).
McInnes said: “The challenge for any youngster is to try to establish themselves the way Scott McKenna has come into the team and improved himself.
“The challenge is always there and it is good for them to see players like McKenna come in and be a part of the first team and a key player.
“For any youngster at any bigger club establishing yourself in the first team can be quite a daunting prospect and you can feel far away from it at times, especially if the team are doing well.
“However, there is no reason why with the right attitude, confidence and pathway of continual growing that they cannot make their way into that first team.
“The ultimate for them is to play for Aberdeen first team.”
That possible progression has also been highlighted by 17-year-old midfielder Dean Campbell.
Aberdonian Campbell became the youngest ever Don to feature at first-team level when coming on against Celtic in the 2016-17 season at just 16 years, one month and 23 days.
He was still at Hazlehead Academy when that debut came and turned full-time with the Dons last summer.
Campbell came off the bench with 25 minutes remaining for the 1-0 victory against Celtic in the final game of the season. It was a high pressure, must-win game but boss McInnes’ faith in the teen was repaid with an impressive performance.
Earlier in the season, youth academy graduate Frank Ross netted a superb free-kick in the 2-1 loss to Rangers.
Ross spent the second half of the season on loan at Morton in the Championship to continue his development.
McKenna spent the 2016-17 season on loan at Ayr United.
Neil Simpson, head of Aberdeen’s youth academy, has watched all eight teens emerge through the ranks.
Gothenburg Great Simpson has urged them to follow the path of McKenna, Campbell and Ross.
He said: “One of the players who came in at this time last year was Dean Campbell.
“Dean and Scott McKenna have shown these boys and all the kids further down in the youth academy the potential opportunity that is there.
“You also have Frank Ross, who scored for the first team.
“His pathway was to go out on loan, like Scott McKenna had done previously. He (Ross) got lots of minutes under his belt and I am hoping when he comes back in pre-season that he can show he can be a regular in the first team as well.
“He will be knocking on the door this season. Dean is just out of the academy and also one who came from the Performance School.”
Like Campbell, a further five of the graduates are from the SFA Performance School at Hazlehead Academy – Alexander, Barry, Barron, Chesser and Shanks.
Simpson revealed McKenna has been an inspiration to Pittodrie youngsters not just on the pitch but off it.
He said: “Scott is in the youth academy office every day. He is a big supporter of youth and is a great role model because he knows what it takes.
“Scott is happy to help and support us in any way he can. “He will often come along and speak to the boys and help educate them.”
Another product of the Reds’ youth system is Scotland and Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser, a regular starter in the English top flight.
Simpson said: “It is great for these young lads who are coming in and have the opportunity to be full-time players. As we always say the hard work starts now.
“It is up to them now to deliver and show that they have the aptitude and the determination to be a first-team player in the future.
“The good thing is that we have Scott Anderson there who has a really key role to play. Scott helps the transition from being a youth academy player to being a full-time player.
“Scott was in charge of the U17s and assisted Paul Sheerin with the U20s.
“There is a slight change next season with the U17 Youth League moving to U18 and the Development League changing back to the Reserves.
“I am in favour of the change. The main advantage is that it will give players an extra year in terms of their development.
“It is all about long-term player development.
“You might have a player who is small and has physically not developed yet but has talent.
“We want to give these types of boys as much time as possible and when they are fully physically developed, that is when you are judging them.
“It also gives some of the U20 players an extra year to impress.
“They can now be part of the reserve squad, whereas before if they were too old for the 20s and they were not ready for the first-team squad, you would maybe have to release them.”