The boys are back in town – new signing Jonny Hayes is the third player that left Aberdeen in summer 2017 to return to the club.
Republic of Ireland winger Hayes returned to Pittodrie on a two-year deal, having left Celtic.
Hayes exited Aberdeen for the Hoops in a £1.3 million move in the summer of 2017 after the 2-1 Scottish Cup final loss to Celtic.
Centre-back Ash Taylor and winger Niall McGinn also left that summer for pastures new.
McGinn signed on at Gwangju in South Korea and Taylor joined Northampton Town, then in England’s League One.
However, all roads lead to Pittodrie as the trio are back.
What is the draw? Manager Derek McInnes believes it is the team spirit and environment within the club.
He said: “All three, Jonny, Ash and Niall, are proven good players.
“All three clearly enjoyed their time at Aberdeen and wanted that again.
“It is a good club to play for and a good environment.
“We have also always fostered a strong team spirit.”
Arguably McInnes’ most-successful squad broke up in summer 2017.
The Dons had reached both domestic cup finals that season and also finished runners-up in the Premiership to Celtic.
However, that team spirit continued as Hayes and Taylor, along with former Dons Adam Rooney (Solihull Moors) and Mark Reynolds (Dundee United), have competed against each other in a weekly online quiz during lockdown.
Hayes has also remained close friends with Northern Ireland international McGinn, who returned to Aberdeen in January 2018 after six months in the K-League.
After two seasons in the English lower leagues, defender Taylor returned to Pittodrie last summer.
McInnes said: “They are three players we didn’t want to lose in the first place.
“A couple were out of contract (McGinn and Taylor) and Celtic paid a fee for Jonny.
“Niall wasn’t away too long before he came back.”
One thing all three players had in common on their return to Pittodrie was their praise of McInnes.
The Aberdeen manager had remained in contact with each player following their exit.
Upon signing this week, Hayes indicated the opportunity to work with McInnes again was a big factor in returning.
Such was Hayes’ desire to come back to Aberdeen, he has deferred payment of his wages for a year.
Hayes had interest from clubs in the English Championship and Dundee United, but was willing to make the financial sacrifice to return to the Dons.
McInnes also believes the new £13 million Cormack Park training facility played a role in Hayes and Taylor coming back.
Work had begun on the training complex and community hub when Taylor returned.
It has now been open for six months, with Hayes getting to experience it as he begun his second spell this week.
McInnes said: “There is also now the added attraction of the training ground, which certainly helps matters. Now we have modern facilities, I think it is somewhere players want to be.”
Having Cormack Park has undoubtedly helped with the transition back from the coronavirus shutdown.
Aberdeen have been back at socially-distanced training for nearly two weeks now.
The club secured a Covid-19 testing machine, which they have on site to produce regular and rapid testing.
There are also daily temperature checks. Players do not have access to the building at Cormack Park yet.
McInnes admits it is an alien and strange environment for players, but has praised them for the way they have rapidly adapted.
He said: “The players have been fantastic and as a club everything has gone really smoothly.
“The players have had to adapt, but they have done it well. The staff planned it well, the medical staff have ensured everyone can function properly.
“It’s strange that you don’t have the contact with them.
“They arrive in their cars, wait until they get tested and then wander out individually.
“We have been working in two groups at the minute, last week it was three groups, so you are doing the same sessions.
“It’s quite taxing, but it’s enjoyable to be back.”