New signing Greg Leigh has unfinished business at Aberdeen after his loan spell last season was wrecked by injury.
The 26-year-old has signed an initial short-term deal until January following his exit from Dutch second tier side NAC Breda.
He was the first signing of a deadline day which also saw former Hamilton and Ross County goalkeeper Gary Woods arrive on loan from Oldham Athletic as cover for the injured Tomas Cerny.
Leigh enjoyed a successful loan spell at Pittodrie last season with 23 starts until suffering a fractured tibia in a 1-0 defeat of Hamilton on December 14. He has not played since that match against Accies.
However, Leigh insists he is now fully fit and ready to pick up where he left off at Aberdeen before suffering that disastrous fracture.
The Reds had the option to buy Leigh at the end of last season but decided not to take it up due to the financial hit of Covid-19.
A fee had been agreed in principle last summer with NAC Breda when that initial loan was completed.
Now, following his exit from NAC, the Dons have landed him for free.
Leigh said: “I have a big point to prove.
“I am fully fit and had a scan that cleared me of my fracture line.
“Now it is all about getting the lungs going again, getting back fit and getting the ball back at my feet and working towards being on the pitch.
“I haven’t been involved in anything since December, which is a long time out of football.
“I am hoping I am not too rusty, but going forward I am really excited. It is great to be back.”
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has utilised three at the back recently and Leigh insists he is ready to slot into that formation either on the left or as a wing-back.
He said: “When I was in Holland we had a manager who wanted to do the same thing.
“I had a lot of training playing the left side of a three.
“The wing-back role suits myself and the attacking part I like to bring to the side.
“Both of those I would like to get the chance to see how I can do, but it is all about the team.”
During his time in Holland, the defender kept close tabs on Aberdeen and regularly watched coverage of their games.
Leigh believes he will have to quickly bring his A-game to force his way into McInnes’s starting line-up and stay there.
He said: “The challenge for positions definitely brings the best out of people.
“You have to turn up and show your A-game when positions are up for grabs.
“That is one thing I have seen in this side that each position has multiple people that can do a good job in there.
“The performances on the pitch show that as well, as people want to keep their shirt.
“I can only hope to get involved and replicate that.”
Leigh’s rehabilitation from the fractured tibia was completed during lockdown in Aberdeen.
However, when the option of a permanent deal with the Dons fell through due to the financial impact of the coronavirus, Leigh returned to his parent club.
With his contract at NAC Breda set to expire at the end of the season, he admits it was a concerning time, particularly when returning from injury.
At the weekend, the final nine months of Leigh’s contract with the Dutch side were terminated by mutual consent, opening the way for a return to Pittodrie.
He said: “It is an uncertain time for everyone. It was quite a worry about where I would end up.
“You just have to battle through and hope as you can only affect so much.
“It was last minute, but nice to get it (Aberdeen move) over the line.
“The pandemic shut things down, which was not an ideal time for me coming back from injury as gyms were shut.
“Luckily the club (Aberdeen) had some precautions in place which allowed me to come back and get fit.
“I did that until June then returned to Holland to continue my rehab there.
“Things were ongoing with general chats with the club and we have managed to work towards an actual deal.”
Although the deal is only until January, Leigh is not thinking beyond that date with his sole focus on returning to regular football.
The extended time out through injury offered time to reflect and he is determined to make use of the lessons learnt.
He said: “I have had minimal long-term injuries in my career.
“It was a time for me to reflect, to see how I can improve to become more like the top players.”
Dons boss McInnes was delighted to secure Leigh and believes he delivers vital left-sided defensive cover.
McInnes said: “Greg obviously got injured playing with us last season, but he’s now got the opportunity to finish what he started and that’s to be part of a successful Aberdeen team.
“He can play left of a three, left centre-back and left wing-back, so he provides real competition in those areas.
“We’re delighted to have him back, despite it being a short-term deal, and now it is important he helps us over the next few months to try and achieve our goals.”
Meanwhile, Woods, 29, was secured on a short-term loan from Oldham Athletic after it emerged second-choice keeper Cerny needs a knee operation and could miss 12 weeks.
Woods played for Hamilton between 2016 and 2019 has been brought in to provide back-up to first-choice goalie and club captain Joe Lewis. Woods also made a handful of appearances on loan at Ross County in season 2015-16, including a starring role in the Staggies’ League Cup Final win over Hibs.
McInnes said: “We’re delighted to get Gary, a player who knows the league well, on board.”