Aberdeen attacker Ryan Hedges thinks the next three games could be important to his Euros hopes.
Scottish football’s shutdown gave Hedges the chance to reflect on his career and begin his drive to make Wales’ European Championship squad.
Creative dynamo Hedges, 25, has been superb for the Dons since the Premiership kicked off in August, after finding himself largely out of the picture last season.
The Welshman, who joined Aberdeen from Barnsley two summers ago in order to boost his Dragons’ chances, now hopes he’s on the right track to earning a first cap since March 2019, with Wales qualified for the postponed Euros and preparing for group games against Italy, Switzerland and Turkey.
Hedges’ last call-up to the national team squad came in November when a 2-0 win over Hungary in Cardiff sealed Ryan Giggs’ team’s passage to the finals.
Despite his showings this term, Hedges knows he has to keep putting in eye-catching displays, including in tomorrow’s Pittodrie league meeting with Celtic and the delayed 2019/20 Scottish Cup semi-final with the Hoops next weekend at Hampden.
He said: “Hopefully I can keep going, keep performing and keep contributing to wins for the team as that’s what matters.
“The difference for me now is that I’ve had a run of games as I started well last season but them for whatever reason found myself out of the side.
“I couldn’t really force my way back in after that but the break turned out to be a good thing for me personally.
“I wouldn’t have liked it to be so long, but it was good to be able to refresh the batteries and look where I was at in my career.
“That’s allowed me to attack this season full of confidence and optimism and that’s paying off right now.
“You have to have some motivation inside and every season I set myself a few goals and the aim is the make the Euro squad.
“That was the target when I signed here and the gaffer knew that and of course the competition being postponed means it remains an incentive now.
“Hopefully I can get a few trophies along the way at Aberdeen, which would be great and be a help with making the Wales squad.
“I haven’t heard anything about that recently, but obviously two games against Celtic and then Hibs before the international break are great games to showcase myself in.”
Aberdeen beat Hamilton 4-2 in midweek, and have only lost twice in the league – to Rangers and Motherwell – going into a clash with Celtic which could see them draw level with their visitors on points.
Hedges thinks the Dons are going into the first game of the teams’ double-header on a high.
He said: “With the form we are on we are all going into the game full of confidence. We are playing some really good stuff and getting results. We just need to carry that into the game on Sunday.
“Every player wants to play in big games and this is certainly one.
“Personally I’m desperate to play because I never got that opportunity last season. So it’s a great one to test myself against the champions.”
A win tomorrow would see Aberdeen stake a claim to be considered Premiership title contenders alongside Rangers and Celtic this season.
Hedges believes the Dons’ strong start to the campaign is based in competition.
He said: “If you look at the strength in depth that we’ve got there are two players for every position that could start every week.
“There is no dip in the level of performance whoever’s been in the side this season, but that’s no guarantee that you keep your place.
“That just shows the friendly competition that we have got in the squad and the level of training has been really good.
“Everybody is vying to get in the starting line-up and even those who don’t make the 20 listed for matches are still very good players.
“After all, the likes of Sam Cosgrove, Curtis Main, Mikey Devlin and Matty Kennedy are just fit enough to be available for selection again.
“That shows the standard the manager has to pick from and you are going to notice the difference.”
Celtic have come in for criticism for their play this season under Neil Lennon, and come into tomorrow’s game on the back of losses to Rangers last weekend and Italian giants AC Milan on Thursday.
However, Hedges doesn’t want to admit to smelling an opportunity to record a first Pittodrie win over the champions since 2016.
He said: “The last two results don’t really reflect their season so far as they are a very good team.
“Any side coming up against a quality outfit like AC Milan would be in for a tough game right now.
“The important thing for us is to focus on ourselves, keep doing what we’re doing and get the right result.”