EXCLUSIVE: Welsh ace Hedges will rise to the challenge at Aberdeen, says his former boss at Flint Town

Aberdeen's Ryan Hedges arrives at Edinburgh Airport as the players depart for Ireland.
Aberdeen's Ryan Hedges arrives at Edinburgh Airport as the players depart for Ireland.

New boy Ryan Hedges will relish the big games for Aberdeen, according to the man who gave him his break in senior football.

The winger became the Dons’ first signing of the summer earlier this month as he knocked back the offer of a new contract at Barnsley to come to Pittodrie.

He will replace Gary Mackay-Steven, who has completed a move to MLS side New York City.

Welsh international Hedges, 23, has had an interesting journey prior to joining the Reds.

After spending time at Everton and Chester as a youth, Hedges returned to his hometown of Flint, North Wales.

There he linked up with local side Flint Town United and, although only 17 manager Paul Davies played him in the first team in the 2012-13 campaign.

Hedges was a standout for the Welsh Championship side and after appearances for the Wales Under-18s schools, Swansea City snapped him up six years ago.

He never made a first-team appearance in three-and-a-half years at the Liberty Stadium, but had loan spells at Leyton Orient, Stevenage and Yeovil before joining Barnsley permanently in January 2017.

Hedges spent two-and-a-half-years at Oakwell and helped the Tykes win promotion from League One last season.

Now he is an Aberdeen player, former Flint boss Davies – who managed the Cae-y-Castell outfit for 10 years until 2014 – believes Hedges will embrace the challenges of trying to make progress in the Europa League and also trying to lift silverware.

Davies believes Hedges can be a star for the Reds and said: “He’s been on a really good path and he’s joined a great club in Aberdeen.

“If he stays injury-free he will make an impact at Aberdeen. He’s quick, can use both feet well and Ryan is someone that just glides with the ball.

“He works hard as well – he knows he’s not a luxury player – even when he played for us he had to get back and do defensive work.

“He would do that for us and he has maintained his work-rate since.

“What Ryan needs is a good run of games without injuries and if he gets that I believe Aberdeen will see the best of Ryan.

“He played for Wales (1-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago in March) and was man of the match and he has so much ability.

“He’s lovely to watch on the ball and likes taking players on. If he gets a real good run of games he’ll hit top form.

“If you look at the games Ryan has played for Wales, he has risen to the challenge – it’s brought out the best in him.

“The higher level and the bigger the stage, the better he performs.

“That’s an opinion of mine, so if it’s cup finals or Europe he’ll relish that.”

Davies, who has also served as director of football at Flint and is now a club ambassador, says everyone connected with the club have now become Aberdeen supporters.

He also reflected on Hedges’ rise from the Silkmen to winning three caps for Wales and joining the Dons.

Davies added: “After he’d been at Everton and Chester, Ryan came in to do pre-season with us.

“In those days in pre-season the first-team and the U19s did their pre-season together.

“Ryan came along and there was nothing of him physically really, he was very thin, but tall with really good balance.

Paul Davies.

“And you could see immediately that he wasn’t a player who was down in the dumps because he had been let go by a club.

“He didn’t act like some do, who think they are too good to play for us. He loved his football and worked really hard that pre-season and we could see he had class about him.

“From then on he stayed with us in the first-team squad because we saw what he could do in pre-season.

“The standard isn’t the greatest standard – but it’s hard for a 17-year-old lad against experienced players.

“Ryan was never arrogant, but was always a little bit different to anyone else we had at Flint just because of the pure natural ability he had.

“We all take great pride in what he has done for Wales.

“Even from the first time he got a call-up we were all delighted.

“He still comes back to watch Flint with his parents from time to time.

“That was where Ryan got his grounding and we are all immensely proud of what he has achieved. We’re all hoping he does well in Scotland and we all keep in touch with him.

“I texted him after the got his move to Aberdeen to congratulate him. I’m defintely going to come up and watch Ryan playing in Scotland.

“Whether it’s at Pittodrie or away from home, I’ll definitely be coming to watch him play and I think a lot of his mates will be coming up to watch him.

“At Flint, Aberdeen’s result will be the first we look for every week in the new season, that’s for sure.

“Ryan has gone on to be the best player I’ve ever managed and he deserves everything he gets.”