Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has challenged Pittodrie’s rising young talent to force their way into his first team squad for the upcoming season.
McInnes has previously admitted the Dons do not currently have the budget to sign new players due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Aberdeen have projected a damaging £10 million loss from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and are haemorrhaging £1m per month.
Republic of Ireland international winger Jonny Hayes signed on a two-year contract but that deal could only be completed because free agent Hayes offered to defer his wages for a year.
Aberdeen are also in talks with players about wage cuts to help lessen the financial hit of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With no fresh signings imminent McInnes accepts it is an opportunity for emerging talent within the club to step up and force their way into the team.
He said: “We have a lot of younger ones and there is an opportunity for those boys to push themselves.
“We constantly say to the young boys don’t waste the opportunity when you are up training with the first team.
“Go and make your mark. It is important that they are going to be seen as part of the squad.
“They have to see themselves as part of the squad and ready to play their part.”
Aberdeen’s young guns reached the final of the Scottish Reserve Cup last season with striker Bruce Anderson netting 10 goals in four ties.
The Dons had been due to face Celtic in the final at Pittodrie on March 17.
However, they were denied the opportunity to land silverware when football was shutdown at all levels on March 13 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Aberdeen’s U18 squad also reached the final of the Scottish FA Youth Cup but that fixture also fell victim to the shutdown.
McInnes said: “I am looking for more from some of the younger players to really push on in the upcoming season.”
If any of the emerging talent at Pittodrie need inspiration or proof of the path open to them they need look no further than Scotland U21 internationals Dean Campbell and Connor McLennan.
Both products of club’s youth academy system midfielder Campbell, 19, made 26 appearances for the Dons first team last season whilst winger McLennan. 20, played 24 games and scored three times last term.
Although not a product of the club’s youth system fellow Scotland U21 international Lewis Ferguson is testament that if you are good enough, you are old enough to feature for the Reds.
Signed from Hamilton in summer 2018 for around £1750,000 following an SPFL tribunal for development compensation.
Ferguson broke into the first team in the first game of his debut season when starting in the 1-1 Europa League draw with Burnley at Pittodrie.
The midfielder, recently named Scottish Sports Writers’ Association Young Player of the season, has been an ever present in the starting line-up since.
Pittodrie’s young talent will have a month of pre-season training to stake a shine before the Premiership starts on August 1.
McInnes aims to pack in as many as five friendlies before the domestic season begins.
He said: “We have factored in some friendly games behind closed doors with a couple at Cormack Park.
“The preparation would be more like it would going into any other campaign as week by week we start to see a bit more scope to function properly.
“We have put in four friendlies now and still have one weekend that we may or may not use. We also intend to try to use 11 v 11’s at Pittodrie amongst ourselves as well.
“I think we would need at least four or five friendlies to be ready for the start of the season.
“Once we get the fixture list (published on Monday morning) if some of these teams we are playing in friendlies come up in the first couple of games in the season we may look at changing one or two of the friendlies.
“We have one or two options as a back up if we have to change.”