New Don Zak Vyner has opened up on the “crazy 24 hours” which saw him sign for Aberdeen then make a mad dash to join the squad in Rijeka.
Bristol City loanee Vyner was registered in time to sit on the bench for the 2-0 Europa League third qualifying round loss a week ago.
The defender, who can play centre-back or right-back and has also had loans spells away from his boyhood team with Accrington Stanley, Plymouth Argyle and Rotherham United, signed his Reds paperwork in Bristol last Wednesday before setting off for Croatia at 3am on Thursday.
He said: “I’d known about the interest and it was going to happen for a couple of days, it was just getting it over the line.
“When they told me I’d be meeting them in Croatia I was obviously excited about it.
“It was a crazy 24 hours for me, travelling all over Europe to get there.
“I signed the loan papers in Bristol, then went Bristol to Birmingham, Birmingham to Brussels, Brussels to Zagreb and Zagreb to Rijeka.
“I then had the game, then from Rijeka flew to Scotland and here we are.”
The 22-year-old arrived at the team hotel in Rijeka four hours before kick-off, by which time the Reds squad had eaten and were resting in preparation for the crunch tie.
Vyner added: “I literally met them at pre-match.
“I’d had phone conversations with the gaffer, so it wasn’t like meeting a new person, but meeting all the lads, trying to remember their names going into the warm-up was tough.”
Despite the fact he’d had a less-than-ideal pre-match routine before the game at the Stadium Rujevica, Vyner says he would have been excited had he needed to play a part on the pitch.
Vyner, who was attracted to Aberdeen in part because of the chance to be involved in European action, revealed: “I’d have been running on adrenaline, just getting me through. I was up at 3am.
“It would have been sandwiches and plane food.
“It would have been exciting. I was ready and still tried to prepare myself – when I got to the hotel I’d got a little bit of sleep in.
“If I’d had the chance to play in a Europa League qualifier I’d have taken it.”
In the end Vyner was an unused substitue and, after battling to keep the game goalless, Aberdeen conceded a second half penalty – after Shay Logan pulled back Luka Capan – and late strike from Robert Muric.
This leaves them with an uphill battle when Rijeka visit Pittodrie tonight, with a play-off round tie against Cyprus’ AEK Larnaca or Belgium’s Gent at stake.
Vyner said: “It was a crazy game. The atmosphere played a part with them at home.
“They’re a good team, there’s no hiding away from that. They were going to have a lot of possession.
“But I thought we did well. From the outside looking in, it might have seemed a bit frantic and that it wasn’t a good game for the neutral, but we camped in, pressed and tried to keep the ball when we needed to.
“It was just the final bit we’ll try to have here tonight and change the result.”
Englishman Vyner, who lived in London’s Peckham until he was nine years old, made his debut at right-back during Sunday’s 1-0 Premiership loss at St Mirren as Logan dropped out.
Although the result and very wet weather were negative, Vyner is glad to be up and running. It was a challenging afternoon as the quick-breaking Saints targeted the flanks.
He said: “It was difficult and a big welcome to Scottish football. The game was a crazy one.
“We had a lot of possession, but they took their chance and sat in. Greg (Leigh) said after the game they (St Mirren) had executed their game plan.
“We’ve got to learn to break that down.”
Despite having experienced two losses so far, Vyner – who’s been living out of a “backpack and a little suitcase” since arriving in the north-east – is excited about the season ahead.
He has been impressed by Pittodrie and boss Derek McInnes’ ambitions – made clear in their first phone conversation – for the season ahead, and can’t wait to play in front of the Red Army.
Vyner said: “I liked what I was hearing, what he was telling and how he (McInnes) was talking about the club.
“It seemed like it was going in the right direction and want to do the best they can – I want to be a part of that.
“We’ve got the big game tonight, the cups and the league as well.
“We need to turn results our way. The games are coming thick and fast, so we don’t need to dwell on anything, you can just move on and move past it.
“We want to do that tonight with a big win.”
He added: “It feels like I’ve been here for a while, but I haven’t seen it (Pittodrie) full.
“Everybody’s been telling me how good it is with the fans constantly shouting and chanting.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited.”