Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes accepts “outstanding” Lewis Ferguson will eventually move to a bigger club.
McInnes has hailed the midfielder’s importance to his plans for success after making his 100th Aberdeen appearance in the 2-0 defeat of Kilmarnock.
The 21-year-old has started all 100 games and has never featured as a substitute since signing on at Pittodrie in summer 2018.
Ferguson won the prestigious SFWA Young Player of the Year award last season.
He was signed with the intention of developing him and have good moments with us over a period of time, but you know eventually he will move on.”
McInnes insists Ferguson, contracted until summer 2024, is fundamental to his team, but admits it is inevitable he will eventually move on
He said: “Lewis has been pivotal to us from day one really and he’s just continues to be more important as he goes along.
“Lewis is a a young man who does everything right and is such a key performer for me.
“He was signed with the intention of developing him and have good moments with us over a period of time, but you know eventually he will move on.
“But, while he is in our team, he will continue to do what he’s done.”
Ferguson arrived at Pittodrie in summer 2018 from Hamilton for around £250,000 in training compensation.
He made an immediate impression during that summer’s pre-season training.
Although Ferguson had only started just 12 senior games for Hamilton before signing, McInnes was impressed enough to pitch him in from the start for a debut in the 2018-19 season opener.
That it was a Europa League league home tie against Premier League Burnley underlined the faith McInnes had in the then-teenager.
Ferguson impressed on his debut, a 1-1 draw, and has started every game he has been available for since.
Only suspension and injury have kept him out of McInnes’ starting line-up.
Ferguson announced his arrival with a sublime over-head kick goal in the return leg against Burnley – with the Dons eventually losing 3-1 (4-2 on aggregate).
Just two months after his debut, Ferguson headed home the winner to secure a memorable 1-0 League Cup defeat of Rangers at Hamdpen in October 2018.
It was great to have him back.
“There’s no doubt we miss Lewis when he’s not there and that’s a sign of how important he is to the team.”
Having missed the 2-0 defeat of Ross County through suspension, Ferguson returned to the starting line-up against Kilmarnock at the weekend.
Scotland U21 international Ferugson is Aberdeen’s top-scorer this season with nine goals.
McInnes said: “It was great to have him back.
“There’s no doubt we miss Lewis when he’s not there and that’s a sign of how important he is to the team.
“We trust Lewis to do the right thing in whatever job we ask him to do and that’s what he delivers.”
Victory at Rugby Park leapfrogged Aberdeen above Hibs into third spot in the Premiership table.
The Reds are a point ahead of the Easter Road club and hold a game in hand.
Aberdeen also moved level on points with Celtic, although the defending champions have played two games less.
McInnes retained faith with Curtis Main to lead the attack against Kilmarnock following Main’s brace in the 2-0 defeat of Ross County.
For the second game in succession Sam Cosgrove, last season’s leading scorer on 23 goals, was on the bench.
However, Cosgrove, who rejected a £2.7 million move to French second tier side Guingamp in the summer, came off the bench to net an injury time free-kick.
Cosgrove, who missed the first three months of the campaign having suffered fractured cartilage, fired a low drive through Kilmarnock’s defensive wall from the edge of the penalty area for his second goal of the season.
McInnes said: “Sam wanted the free-kick, which is good on him because he had missed a chance prior to that.
“He is still confident enough to take the shot on.
“It was good to see the ball hit the back of the net, even though it was on the final whistle.”
Aberdeen will tomorrow travel to Motherwell on Premiership duty.
It will be the sixth game on the road out of Aberdeen’s last eight fixtures following trips to Hampden (Scottish Cup semi-final), Kilmarnock, Hamilton, Rangers and St Mirren (twice, Premiership and League Cup).
McInnes said: “It’s a big demand on us, but what we have on the back of last week is an away victory and we’ll go into the Motherwell game with a bit more confidence.
“There’s no doubt they are a good team.
“A 2-0 victory at Kilmarnock sounds really convincing, but we have to be honest that it was never in the bag.
“It wasn’t perfect, but I thought every one of them stood up and battled and it is another good 2-0 victory on the back of last weekend.
“I thought the work of the team individually and as a team was outstanding.
“That is what you need to do when you go away from home in the Premiership.”