Red Army get ready – Derek McInnes reckons James Wilson’s sublime 30-yard goal is a taste of what’s to come from the on-loan Manchester United striker.
McInnes is confident the Old Trafford star is now beginning to show the quality and self-belief that just four years ago made him one of the hottest prospects in the English Premier league.
Since that breakthrough with a goal double on his United debut in a 3-1 defeat of Hull City in May 2014, Wilson has been dogged by injury.
Having fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford the 22-year-old, in the final year of his deal, moved to Scotland on a season-long loan deal in a bid to revitalise his career and put himself in the shop window for the summer.
His superb strike in the 3-0 defeat of Hamilton, where he turned sharply, took a touch then lashed home a dipping 30-yard drive, was the mark of a striker growing in confidence.
McInnes insists the best is yet to come from Wilson, who is set to lead the attack at Kilmarnock tomorrow.
McInnes said: “There is clearly more to come from James.
“Ideally as he gets to that level he will continue to have an impact as he did against Hamilton.
“We need to keep James on the pitch to get his minutes up.
“James has suffered over the last few seasons through injuries and being out of the team.
“You can try to get him up to speed through training but the only way you actually get him to where he will hopefully get to is by getting him on the pitch.
“The fact he took on that shot illustrates to me he is a boy who is confident and feeling good about himself again.
“It is brilliant that it went in but the fact he took the shot on in the first place is an indicator to me that we are getting James up to where we want him.”
Wilson suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament in October 2016 while training during a loan spell at Derby County.
He was sidelined for year before returning for a loan spell in the second half of last season at Sheffield United, where he scored just one goal.
His memorable strike against Hamilton was his second Dons goal having netted on his Pittodrie debut in a 1-0 defeat of Motherwell in September.
“James came off his man, looked up and scored from all of 30 yards,” said McInnes.
“It was a fantastic strike – unstoppable. When you see the quality of that strike it shows you what he is capable of.”
Despite finishing Premiership runners-up for a fourth successive year last season McInnes made securing a proven goal-scorer a priority.
That intensified when Adam Rooney was transferred to non-league Salford City for a six- figure fee. Rooney was the first Dons player to net 20-plus goals in three successive seasons since club legend Joe Harper in the late 1970s.
McInnes said: “After we’d won the game at Celtic Park last season my first phone call to Manchester United was the Monday after it.
“We wanted our own strikers in but we were continually rejected and we didn’t have the money to do what we wanted to do so the loan market is the fallback.
“We had asked to be kept informed with James’s situation and his agent did that and thought it was a good idea from the get-go.
“There were other clubs interested. We didn’t get the permanent strikers we were after and thankfully the loan deal became do-able.”
Tomorrow, Aberdeen face a Kilmarnock side flying high under the guidance of manager Steve Clarke.
In the 2-0 loss to Killie at Pittodrie this season Reds defender Mikey Devlin was red carded after just four minutes.
Aberdeen appealed the dismissal and subsequent one-game ban, but the SFA fast track disciplinary panel upheld the red card.
McInnes said: “Kilmarnock did well on the day.
“The circumstances we felt really aggrieved by but take nothing away from them, they took full advantage of it.
“It was nothing to do with Kilmarnock, it was a refereeing decision.
“I wasn’t happy at the time and consequently Michael getting a further ban meant we felt harshly treated that day.”
Devlin’s dismissal and subsequent ban was the latest controversial decision to have aggrieved the Dons.
Aberdeen appealed the red card shown to Shay Logan after full-time in the 1-0 defeat of Celtic in the final game of last season. That appeal was knocked back.
Defender Scott McKenna was also banned for two matches after the Dons lost their appeal for his challenge on Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard.
McKenna’s challenge in the 1-0 loss at Parkhead went unpunished by match referee Bobby Madden but retrospective action was taken by the governing body with a notice of complaint issued by the Scottish FA.
McInnes believes controversy off the pitch is sometimes overshadowing the quality on it, and hopes football can win out at Rugby Park.
He said: “There seems to be one controversy after another of late.
“What we are getting on the pitch in the league, in general there is a high level of performance.
“There are a lot of good managers operating in the league and a lot of good players.
“Certainly the improvement in the teams is making the league far tighter and more competitive which is never a bad thing.
“I expect a tough game as Kilmarnock have been very consistent and have had a lot of good results against the better teams in the league.
“We have a tough game but the intention is to go down there and make it tough for them as well.
“There is no doubt that Kilmarnock are a good, capable side and we have a challenge to get all three points.
“Hopefully we can be good enough on the day to do that.”