Defende Ash Taylor insists he is a better player in his second spell at Aberdeen after two seasons in England.
The 29-year-old centre-back returned to Aberdeen last summer on a two-year deal having left Northampton Town by mutual consent.
Taylor is confident his time in the English lower leagues made him a leader – stronger in both body and mind.
He needed that mental strength when his Pittodrie return was derailed by a 14-week absence due to a hamstring injury.
Now back in the starting line-up Taylor’s second spell at Aberdeen is finally up and running.
He said: “I came back to Aberdeen a better footballer after going back down to England.
“I returned stronger both mentally and physically and a lot more experienced.
“I managed to be the captain down at Northampton and got a lot more responsibility.
“That brought out a bit more character in terms of being a leader.”
Taylor played in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Jordanian side Al Wehdat in Dubai and is set to face Dumbarton in the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
After three seasons at Pittodrie, Taylor rejected the offer of a new Aberdeen contract in summer 2017 to move to then League One Northampton Town.
He exited Aberdeen at the end of a campaign where the Reds lost both domestic finals and to Celtic and also finished Premiership runners-up to the Parkhead side.
Taylor believes the squad McInnes has assembled has more depth than the class than 2016-17.
He said: “In terms of squad depth and the players we have now it is very strong.
“When I was here before, the first 11, 12 or 13 players picked themselves really.
“But with squad depth now, especially with the youth coming through as well, we have a very strong squad.
“We have had our problems this season with injuries and unsettled teams.
“That is due to players being out and we have not had the players to be picking from.
“However when we have a full squad to pick from there is that quality where we can push any team in the league.”
Taylor and the other Dons have recently returned from a week long warm weather training camp in Dubai.
The last time Taylor flew with the Reds he suffered the hamstring injury in Tbilisi, Georgia in the 1-1 Europa League draw with Chikhura Sachkhere in July.
Now that his injury woes are behind him Taylor’s ambitions for his second spell in the Granite City is to emulate his first – then go one better by lifting silverware.
The bid to achieve that begins in the first game after the Premiership winter shutdown when they face Dumbarton at Pittodrie on Saturday in the Scottish Cup.
He said: “The target is pushing for cup finals and pushing Celtic and Rangers as much as we can.
“We have to build on what we are as a football club.”
For Taylor fundamental to realising those beliefs will be the spirit of the club, famously encapsulated by Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano.
Following Real’s 2-1 European Cup Winner’s Cup final defeat to Aberdeen in 1983, then Real manager di Stefano said: “Aberdeen have what money can’t buy: a soul, a team spirit built in a family tradition.”
That remains pertinent in today’s game when Celtic and Rangers are outlaying millions on players in a bid to dominate Scotland.
Taylor said: “Celtic and Rangers have the financial power of being able to spend what they want.
“But as a football club Aberdeen are not just about that.
“We are about the club, team spirit and what we can work with.
“Those are things have that in abundance.
“We try to push in every department of the football club to help the team on the pitch.”
Since returning to full fitness Taylor’s started all six of Aberdeen’s games prior to the Premiership winter shutdown.
After injury derailed his start the centre-back is relishing his second opportunity at the Dons.
And he revealed working with Derek McInnes again was a key factor in his return.
He said: “Being up at Aberdeen the last time was probably the most enjoyable time in my career.
“We were competing for trophies and pushing to try to get to cup finals.
“I know what the manager and the club is about.
“Derek McInnes is the best manager I have worked with and gets the best out of the players.
“For me it was a no brainer to come back especially with the whole scale of things.
“Especially with the new training ground which will help the club push forward in the right direction.
“The training ground it is excellent, it is top class.”