The late Hicham Zerouali will always have a place in the hearts of Aberdeen fans and players, according to Darren Young.
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the former Dons attacker’s death at the age of 27.
The Moroccan died after his car collided with a tree in his homeland.
Hicham joined the Reds from FUS de Rabat in December 1999 and spent two-and-a-half years at Pittodrie before leaving to join Al Nassr in the United Arab Emirates and then FAR Rabat in Morocco.
During his time in the Granite City he endeared himself to supporters and team-mates alike.
Darren played alongside Hicham throughout his time at Pittodrie and remembers a talented player who quickly became an integral part of the Dons dressing room under Ebbe Skovdahl.
The 41-year-old, who is now manager of East Fife, said: “He’ll always have a place in the memories of people connected with Aberdeen because of the character he was and the player he was.
“He scored some spectacular goals and was an exciting player always trying tricks and flicks and things and doing it with a smile on his face.
“Anybody who came into contact with him could become friendly with him because he was very likeable.
“Once he came I think everyone at the club fell in love with him and that big smile of his.
“He was brilliant with everybody, a great guy. He tried to learn the language and picked up a few words – although most of them were swear words!
“When he arrived Rachid Belabed was also at the club and he could speak English and would translate for him.
“He was a great guy and some of the goals he scored and his celebrations meant he quickly became a fans’ favourite.
“He was a great part of the dressing room. He joined in with all the jokes even though he probably only partly understood.
“But he quickly became one of the lads.
“Off the pitch he joined in with the nights out. He was a Muslim so he couldn’t drink or smoke.
“But he still came on team nights out and was a big part of it.
“If we had a wee team night out in the city he was always mobbed by fans wanting to speak to him.
“We had a good dressing room with a good spirit and he was a great guy and enjoyed the nights out we had along with everyone else.”
On the pitch Hicham scored 13 goals in 48 appearances and is still remembered for initially having zero as his shirt number and for his extravagant forward flip celebrations.
Darren, who left Aberdeen for Dunfermline in 2003, added: “He was a great player. Don’t get me wrong he could be frustrating at times – but when he was on his game he was brilliant.
“He would usually manage to get his cross or shot away and would try to make something happen on the pitch.
“We didn’t really know too much about him when he came to the club.
“We knew he was a Moroccan international and you could see his quality.”
Darren was sad to see Hicham leave the Dons in 2002 and still remembers how he felt when news emerged of his death.
He said: “We were sad to see him go because he was a good player and a good character.
“Everyone got a shock when we heard he had died.
“I was at Dunfermline by that stage, but I was still in touch with people at Aberdeen and they told me.
“It all happened so quickly because his funeral was very quickly after.
“Aberdeen held a service at Pittodrie which was nice but I still remember that feeling of sadness and the lump in the throat thinking that one of my former team-mates was gone.
“Even talking about it now puts a lot of things in life in perspective.”