Dean Campbell wants to repay manager Derek McInnes’ faith in him by helping the Dons reach the group stages of European competition for the first time since season 2007-08.
The midfielder was handed his first start in Europe in Thursday’s Europa League first qualifying round second leg at RoPS Rovaniemi.
And he played a key role in midfield as Aberdeen recovered from the loss of a goal after 75 seconds to win 2-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.
Dons boss McInnes hailed the composure and calmness of his teenage midfielders Campbell, 18, and Lewis Ferguson, 19. And Aberdonian Campbell was thrilled to mark his first start in Europe with a win.
He said: “It is a dream come true to play in a European competition and to play my part in a win in my first start which takes us through to the next round is fantastic.
“I really appreciate the gaffer’s trust in me by putting me into a game like that.
“It’s down to me after that to prove why he shows the faith in me and as long as he keeps doing that I have to keep working hard and do as best as I can when I get the opportunity.”
Campbell was given the chance to play due to Craig Bryson missing the first round with an ankle injury.
With Bryson due to resume training on Sunday and new signing Funso Ojo also joining the squad for next week’s second qualifying round tie at Chikhura Sachkhere of Georgia, Campbell faces a fight to keep his place in the side. But he will use team-mate Ferguson’s success in holding down a regular place in the team as inspiration.]
He said: “I’m comfortable in this team and feel I can cope with first-team games and European games. I just have to keep working as hard as I can and the manager will keep his faith in me.
“Fergie had a terrific season last year and will only kick on. He’s a fantastic young player and I enjoy playing alongside him so hopefully this is a partnership which we can develop.”
Campbell, a product of the club’s youth system, has grown up watching the first team try to reach the group stages of the competition. This campaign, the sixth in a row under manager Derek McInnes, represents as good an opportunity as any.
The importance for the club and the team in making it to the group stages has not been lost on the teenager.
Huge clubs such as Premier League Arsenal and Manchester United as well as Italian side Roma lie in wait.
The Aberdonian, a lifelong Dons fan, is living his dream in being involved in European competition with his home city side.
He said: “It’s always been an ambition, even as a little kid, to play in a European competition.
“To get my first start is brilliant.
I’ve watched the Real Sociedad games, the Groningen games as a fan so to be part of it is great.
“All Aberdeen fans know of the glory days against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich but times have changed due to the money in the game now.
“We’ve just got to do all we can to get to the group stages and that starts with the next round in Georgia.
“It would be absolutely brilliant to get there.
“That’s our aim every time we go into this competition and to get through would be fantastic for the players and financially for the club. It’s huge. I want to test myself against the best competition that is out there.
“European competition is the cream at the top of the game.”
The last time Aberdeen played in the group stages was during Jimmy Calderwood’s reign. The Dons reached the last 32 of the Uefa Cup in 2008 before being eliminated 7-3 on aggregate by German giants Bayern Munich.
Campbell was still at primary school during that run but the memories remain vivid today.
He said: “I was a season ticket in the South Stand. I used to sit next to the away fans and I loved it. I was at the Bayern game in 2008 and I remember that one and the Copenhagen game.
“I would have been seven years old watching games like that so it’s great to be here 11 years later.
“Hopefully I can kick on.”