Connor McLennan says he was never going to be the finished article at 20 years old – but there’s “much more to come” from him for Aberdeen this season.
The Buchan-raised wideman made a scoring return to the Dons starting line-up against Livingston in the final home game before the winter break.
It was McLennan’s first Reds goal of the campaign, after his break-out season in 2018-19.
So far, the youngster – who had keyhole surgery to repair damage to one of his knees in the summer – has made just five starts in all competitions, compared to 21 last term.
Asked why he thinks he has had to be patient this season, McLennan said: “To be fair, I don’t know myself really.
“I’ve been injury-free most of the season, which was my main focus really – as I’ve had a lot in the past.
“It was round about this time last season when I really started to kick on, so I’ll see where it takes me this time.”
Last season, McLennan had a few stand-out showings, with an early-campaign strike against St Mirren in the Premiership and Scottish Cup replay counter against Rangers at Ibrox among his goals.
He bagged four in total across his 27 appearances.
However, McLennan recognises – as has been the case so far this term – he will have to perform to a high level to keep the likes of Niall McGinn, James Wilson, Jon Gallagher and Ryan Hedges out of Derek McInnes’ side.
He said: “It’s such a good team – we have so many options now and such a big squad this season.
“With a lot of guys coming back to full fitness, competition is going to be high, which is what you want to push you on.
“I’ve not played a lot, and I don’t know how much I’ve started. You could probably count it on one hand.
“The games I’ve came on, I would say I’ve done all right.
“But there’s much more to come and there needs to be.
“You can’t possibly be the finished article at 20.
“I’m working on everything. Things I’m good at and things I’m not so good at.”
Peterhead native McLennan, who is heading to Dubai for a warm weather training camp with the rest of the Reds squad, takes motivation from the heights he hit last season.
He said: “I’ve got to take confidence from it and look towards what I managed to do last season.
“I can look at what I managed to do in games and take that into matches and training.”
Last winter, the youth academy graduate was rewarded for his first-team showings with a new contract, tying him to Pittodrie until the summer of 2021.
Having recently seen fellow youngster Dean Campbell rewarded in a similar way, with a deal until 2023, McLennan says it was a reminder of the opportunities afforded to emerging talent at Aberdeen.
He said: “I suppose so (it serves as a boost). Dean deserves it completely.
“You see it every day in training, how he has an old head on young shoulders.
“In the games he’s played this season, he’s not looked out of place at all.”
McLennan has hit the headlines at age-group level for Scotland this term, with his late double for the Under-21s securing a win over heavy favourites Croatia in European Championship qualifying in September.
Since then, there have been goalless draws with Lithuania and the Czech Republic, as well as a 1-0 home loss to Greece.
However, McLennan is determined to shine for Aberdeen, so he can still be involved when the next qualifiers are taking place in March.
He said: “I’m looking forward to it. Last time we lost to Greece.
“But it’s a brilliant team and there are players who weren’t even in the last squad (who are great players). So it’s massively enjoyable to be in and around it.
“In training with Scotland it’s all about tactics.
“The games are a really high standard.”