With a year left on his Aberdeen contract attacker Ryan Hedges expects to open up talks with manager Stephen Glass about his future soon.
Hedges underlined his value to the Dons by scooping both the Supporters’ Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year awards prior to the 1-0 loss to Hibs.
That defeat ended hopes of finishing third in the Premiership.
The Welsh international was voted top Don despite being sidelined for 10 weeks from early February with a pectoral muscle injury which required surgery.
Glass views Hedges as pivotal to his long-term plans, but, with his deal set to expire at the end of the 2021-22 season, the attacker would be free to talk to any interested clubs when the winter transfer window opens on January 1.
If the Dons don’t secure their top playmaker on a new deal, they risk him leaving in January for a transfer fee or next summer for nothing under freedom of contract.
When asked if he would consider extending his deal over the summer, the 25-year-old said: “The main thing over the last couple of months has been to get back fit.
“That has been my sole focus.
“Now I am fit the club will probably sit down and see where I am and we can take things from there.”
Having suffered a pectoral injury that required surgery in a 2-0 loss to Livingston on February 2, it was initially feared Hedges’ season would be over.
However, he returned earlier than anticipated to make a goalscoring impact off the bench in the later 2-1 defeat of the Lions.
Despite his limited game time, manager Glass pitched Hedges in from the start against Hibs in a game the Reds had to win to retain any hope of finishing third.
It is the third successive season Aberdeen have finished fourth.
Hedges is determined there will be no more Premiership disappointment next season.
However, he has set his sights higher than third and warned the Dons will be gunning for big-spending Rangers and Celtic, ready to punish any slip-ups.
He said: “It is not just third.
“This season with Celtic faltering, you never know one of the Old Firm might falter again.
“It is then up to us to capitalise on that.
“At the start of the season, it looked like we could, but for whatever reason we tailed off and were unable to hit the heights that we started the season at.”
When it was then pointed out that a second-placed finished in the Premiership now delivers the added prize of Champions League qualification, Hedges said: “Definitely, a reason to stay.”
Hedges was brutally honest in his assessment of the season and admits Aberdeen have not been good enough over the course of the campaign to warrant a third-placed finish.
Aberdeen’s season went into free-fall following the turn of the year with just 10 points secured from the first 14 Premiership games of 2021.
That precipitated a change of management by the Pittodrie board with Glass appointed on March 23 following the exit of Derek McInnes.
Hedges said: “The main thing is that we have now lost and third place has now gone.
“Over the course of the season we haven’t been good enough to warrant that.
“We haven’t lost third by losing on Wednesday, we lost it over the course of the season.”
The frustrating aspect of the Hibs defeat was that it was a microcosm of the entire season and a 90 minute summation of exactly why they were beaten to third.
Chances were created, but that lack of cutting edge to finish them was once more apparent.
Hedges said: “I felt, if we had got the first goal, we probably would have gone on to win.
“We dominated the ball more and had half-chances, but it was that final ball that was lacking.”
Aberdeen will call time on the season with an away clash at Premiership champions Rangers on Saturday.
Rangers are unbeaten in the league campaign and are sitting on 99 points.
They have won all 18 Premiership games at Ibrox this season, scoring 53 and conceding just four.
Steven Gerrard’s side will receive the Premiership trophy following full-time on Saturday and thousands of Rangers fans are planning to defy Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to congregate outside Ibrox before marching to George Square in Glasgow’s city centre.
Hedges is determined to ruin Rangers’ title party.
He said: “This season has now been and gone.
“We are now focused on Saturday and trying to spoil the party there.
“Then kicking on (for next season), because there is still plenty to look forward to, with fans back in the stadiums as well, which is the main thing.”
⚽️🔴 How will Dons fans be feeling about Stephen Glass' early moves to rebuild the @AberdeenFC squad for next season?
— EveningExpress Sport (@ee_sport) May 11, 2021