European football was one of the key factors in Funso Ojo’s decision to join Aberdeen – and now he’s determined to help secure a Europa League spot once again.
The Dons, fourth in the Premiership, start a key run of fixtures tonight against Kilmarnock in their bid to finish third in the Premiership and secure a Euro place for the seventh straight season.
After this evening at Rugby Park, the Reds face Hibs, Motherwell and Livingston, all also in the race for Europe.
Midfielder Ojo joined Aberdeen from Scunthorpe United last summer and made his debut in the Europa League against Chikhura Sachkhere.
Playing in Continental competition was one of the reasons the 28-year-old Belgian chose the Dons ahead of Premiership rivals Hibs and he’s keen to ensure the Reds are preparing for Europe again by getting the job done in the Premiership.
Ojo said: “Everyone who comes here and is here already knows European football is a massive thing for Aberdeen and the players themselves.
“For Aberdeen it’s the highest stage we can show ourselves on.
“The Champions League is probably not going to happen any time soon, so the Europa League is the highest stage and we always want to aim for the highest thing.
“Europe was one of the things that Aberdeen had and Hibernian didn’t have so that made a difference for me.”
Aberdeen have won just once in seven Premiership outings since the winter break which has led to some frustration from the Red Army.
Ojo believes performances have improved and reckons consistency in the league will come sooner rather than later.
He added: “There have been ups and downs.
“There have been weeks where we’ve been really happy.
“Then other weeks there’s been a weird vibe around the place.
“But it is going well just now and hopefully we can keep it up until the end of the season.
“It is about consistency and I think overall the 11, 12, 13 or 14 that are playing have been more consistent and I think that has resulted in better performances and results.
“Supporters pay good money to watch us and they want something back, that’s the main reason (for frustration).”
Ojo returned to the Aberdeen team in Saturday’s 2-0 Scottish Cup win at St Mirren.
He missed the cup victory against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park a fortnight ago and the Premiership defeat to Ross County 10 days ago due to a cut sustained against Celtic at Pittodrie on February 16.
The gash was sustained after a collision with team-mate Joe Lewis as the pair tried to block Kristoffer Ajer’s winning goal for the Hoops.
It was a frustrating week for the former PSV Eindhoven player, who said: “I’m going to have a nice scar on my knee.
“It’s not bothering me, it’s just opening up every now and then if I fall on it.
“But it’s not bothering me. It’s quite a deep cut because goalies usually play with longer studs than we play with.
“So Joe’s stud really went in – it wasn’t nice to look at when it happened.
“It’s not painful or anything and it’s not restricting me.
“It was weird because after I missed games people were like ‘are you injured?’
“And it’s classed as an injury, but it doesn’t feel like an injury. it’s just because it’s on a weird spot on the knee.
“I couldn’t feel anything and it wasn’t even painful, but I couldn’t play.
“It was frustrating. But there was no way I could play so I just had to deal with that.”
Do our Northern Goal pundits think Aberdeen can win their Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic?
After the cup win at Rugby Park, Ojo expects a fired-up Kilmarnock tonight but believes Aberdeen will be able to cope.
He said: “With the confidence we have I expect a game where we can impose our will on them.
“I didn’t play but it was good for the boys we won there a couple of weeks ago.
“They’re going to be determined to get a win, especially because they’re playing at home.
“But it’s not the first time I’ve played them.
“The teams have played plenty of times and I just feel we are the better team.”