After two months of injury frustration teenage star Dean Campbell aims to grab his chance in the Betfred Cup today to secure a regular start.
Having recovered from a broken bone in his foot, the 19-year-old started in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at bottom side Hamilton.
Despite the frustrating result, Campbell impressed in central midfield and is set to retain his starting slot in the last-16 cup clash St Mirren today as boss Derek McInnes’ side has been decimated.
Central midfielders Ross McCrorie and Lewis Ferguson are ruled out of today’s tie as they are self-isolating following a recent Covid-19 outbreak in the Scotland Under-21 squad.
McCrorie tested positive, but is asymptomatic, while Ferguson tested negative.
Midfielder Dylan McGeouch is also out injured with McInnes without seven players today – including Jonny Hayes, Marley Watkins, Scott Wright and Connor McLennan, another Scotland U21s star who tested negative for coronavirus.
Aberdonian Campbell is ready to seize his opportunity in their absence by helping Aberdeen into the quarter-final draw.
He said: “I had a broken metatarsal and just had to let the bone do the healing itself.
“I couldn’t do any sort of exercise while that was healing, I just had to do work in the gym.
“It was a boring few months.
“Watching from the sidelines was also frustrating.
“Hamilton was my first 90 minutes in a few months so on a personal note, I was delighted to get back on the pitch.”
Campbell last started for the Dons in a 1-0 defeat of St Johnstone on August 20 only to suffer the injury set-back.
He said: “The situation with my foot really wasn’t great timing.
“When I was out, the boys were doing really well.
“While it is good to see them doing well, obviously you want to be a part of it.
“It was just a case of getting my head down, working hard, and making sure I got back healthy.
“I feel like I’m in a good place in my career, still being young and having an amount (44 games) of appearances at the top level.
“Every game I play is a good experience for me, and I know I still have a lot of learning to do to get to where I want to be.”
An Aberdeen supporter and product of the club’s youth system, Campbell hopes today can be the first step towards emulating the triumph of 2014 when McInnes led the Reds to League Cup glory.
Although he attended the final at Parkhead where the Dons overcame Inverness Caley Thistle on penalties, the teen missed the open-topped bus parade through the city centre as he was playing for the Pittodrie youths that day.
Now he wants to be part of a team that brings a trophy back to the Granite City.
He said: “I was at the final in 2014. I would have been 13.
“It was an amazing day, such a memorable experience for the club and the whole city.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget as a fan.
“When I went to cup games as a fan, my parents and my mates used to rent out a bus and we’d all go together and stop for lunch on the way down to games.
“We did that with all the semi-finals and finals we got to.
“It was another one of them that day.
“There are plenty good memories from those games.
“I missed the bus parade on Union Street as I had a youth academy tournament that day at St Andrews with other SPFL teams. I think we won it that year.
“A lot of my friends and family went to the bus parade and said it was a great day.
“The cup is such an important thing for this club and we want to try and get that again this season.”
Campbell insists the Reds must be more ruthless in front of goal against St Mirren if they are to secure a place in the last eight.
He said: “It’s down to us to have our game plan ready and perform our best on the day and be better than we were on Wednesday.
“We need to create more chances and put our dominance to use and score more goals. It’s going to be a tough game, but it’s one we’ll be ready for.”
In Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Rangers, fellow teen Ryan Duncan made his debut as a second half substitute – at just 16 years and 309 days old.
Campbell remains the youngest to play for Aberdeen, making his debut in a 1-0 defeat of Celtic at Parkhead on May 12, 2017 at 16, one month and 23 days.
He said: “I was delighted to see all the involvement of the youth academy players and Ryan Duncan getting his debut was a brilliant achievement.
“I’m feeling old now seeing all these 16-year-old boys come into the team!
“I was in this situation once before and I was trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible, talking to them before the game and seeing how they’re feeling.
“I had to give the advice that I was given in that situation.