Wales international Ryan Hedges has been challenged to keep delivering goals and assists for Aberdeen in order to realise his Euro 2020 finals dream.
Aberdeen attacker Hedges, capped three times for his country, has not featured in a Wales squad for a year – but his form this season has opened up a route to Euro 2020.
Manager Derek McInnes believes the 25-year-old attacker can still make the national team squad.
However, McInnes insists Hedges must avoid a repeat of last season where following a strong start his performance levels and game time petered out at the turn of the year.
This season Hedges has been one of the stand-out performers for Aberdeen and McInnes reckons he must retain those levels to force his way into Ryan Giggs’ Wales squad for the World Cup qualifiers in March.
Do that and the dream of playing at next summer’s Euro party will be alive.
McInnes said: “The next few months are important for Ryan.
“The work he does between now and that March international get-together is vital.
“It will be difficult to get into that Wales squad after March (for the Euro finals).
“Ryan’s manager at Wales, Ryan Giggs, has included him in a few squads.
“I think he has good players ahead of him in that position.
“Ryan maybe went off the radar a bit with Wales, but he and I have spoken about it.
“He has to maintain his levels, keep scoring and assisting with goals and being the difference in big games.
“That will be the best thing for him.
“Ryan has certainly given himself the chance to be involved and that is all we can ask for.
“If he maintains his form and hopefully that reward is there for him.”
Wales boss Giggs previously called up Aberdeen attacker Hedges in November last year for a Euro 2020 qualifier against Hungary at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Although Hedges did not add to his three caps, he was part of the squad which defeated Hungary to secure Euro 2020 qualification.
Having forced his way into the international frame, his form dropped off at the turn of the year.
Following the winter break last season, Hedges made just one start before Scottish football shut down at all levels on March 13 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Hedges signed a three-year deal at Pittodrie last summer, having rejected a contract at Barnsley.
He moved to Scotland in the hope playing regularly in a top flight could help force his way into Wales squad.
McInnes said: “I do sometimes think players take time to settle.
“With the greatest of respect to where Ryan has been before when you come here a lot is expected of you.
“Ryan started last season well.
“His goals and assists were good at the start of that campaign.
“Then after a few poorer performances he lost a bit of confidence and wasn’t getting selected as much.
“He has benefited from a strong start, trusted his body and benefited from playing games.”
This season Hedges has been revitalised with seven goals and a number of assists.
The attacker is set to start against St Mirren on Saturday as the Dons bid to bounce back from a slump in form.
It is a quick return to St Mirren having crashed out of the Betfred Cup 2-1 to the Buddies on Saturday.
McInnes said: “Confidence has played a big part for Ryan.
“Getting the hat-trick in Europe (6-0 defeat of NSI Runavik, August 27) was massive and he hasn’t looked back from there.
“Against Hamilton I thought Ryan was the one player on the pitch with real pace and he used it time and time again.
“I think confidence for that type of player is key.
“They can be up and down, but he is getting consistency of selection and performance.
“Hopefully, that will continue.”