Willie Miller: No time for nerves as Europe provides an early wake-up call

Aberdeen's Lewis Ferguson celebrates after he makes it 1-0
Aberdeen's Lewis Ferguson celebrates after he makes it 1-0

Aberdeen must start positively against RoPS Rovaniemi to kill off any chance of nerves creeping in.

Finnish side RoPS will be 15 games into their domestic league campaign when they face the Dons in the Europa League at Pittodrie on Thursday.

In contrast, the Europa League tie will be Aberdeen’s first competitive game after less than a month of pre-season.

The Dons are kicking off their Euro campaign very early in the summer after a short break.

However, they cannot use that as an excuse because we all know where the European game is now with regards to Scottish clubs.

An early start in Europe is now the norm and Aberdeen must embrace that in the first leg of the first qualifying round.

As long as they are fully ready for RoPS I am confident they will get through to the next round. What is pivotal on Thursday is that the Reds must not give any encouragement to the Finns and run the risk of the tie building into a nervous situation.

Keeping a clean sheet and denying RoPS that away goal is vital.

Aberdeen need to keep it tight at the back and be ruthless in attack.

I am sure that a clean sheet will be very much in the mind of manager Derek McInnes and his players for the first leg.

They must ensure they take control of the tie and avoid being dragged into a nervous situation where the fans start to get anxious.

That can spill over to the players, which would not be ideal, especially with so many new signings set to make their Pittodrie debuts.

Summer signing Craig Bryson has yet to make his Dons debut as he did not get the planned game time in the 1-1 friendly draw with Inverness Caley Thistle in Elgin.

The manager opted not to risk him on the pitch.

The former Derby County midfielder returned to full training last week, having been sidelined with an ankle injury sustained last season.

If Bryson does not start against RoPS on Thursday, teenagers Lewis Ferguson and Dean Campbell are strong enough to anchor the midfield. Ferguson was in outstanding form last season and is definitely a potential Aberdeen captain. He has shown tremendous maturity.

Campbell has also proved that he can handle big occasions as he has played in victories over both Celtic and Rangers.

I certainly would not be nervous with those two playing in the midfield area against the Finns and I don’t think Derek McInnes will be either.

If you are good enough you are certainly old enough.

I went into the Aberdeen team when I was 17 years old and was then club captain when I was 20.

If you have that desire, will and ability, then age doesn’t really matter.

Players obviously get better with experience but the only way to get that is to play games at a high level.

Ferguson and Campbell have both done that.

Both of the teenagers possess very good footballing qualities and will be fine if given the nod to start against RoPS.

The return of Connor McLennan and Niall McGinn from recent injuries is also a timely boost ahead of the Euro tie.

Both featured against Inverness in what was their first appearance of the pre-season.

McLennan did extremely well last season and we all know the qualities McGinn has.

You need that creativity in the wide areas to provide the ammunition for the strikers.

Having those two creative players back is fabulous news for the manager.

Hopefully, they will both deliver the form they are capable of against RoPS.

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