Dean Campbell has been to Hampden on many occasions – but tonight he will realise his dream of playing there.
The Aberdeen Under-20s captain has been in the stands cheering on the Dons in the past, but this evening he will lead out the young Reds in the Scottish Youth Cup final.
Paul Sheerin’s side are taking on Hibs at the national stadium as they try to become the first side from Pittodrie to win the competition since 2001.
Campbell, 17, says it will be an honour to make his Hampden bow as skipper tonight.
He said: “I’ve never played at Hampden. I was fortunate enough to be on the bench for the first team Scottish Cup semi-final against Motherwell this season.
“But I didn’t get on. This will be my first taste of Hampden and it should be an incredible experience.
“I’ve been to Hampden supporting Aberdeen on many occasions in my life so to get out there and play on the pitch will be a fantastic experience for me and my family.
“It’s really good for me, we’ve got a fantastic dressing room of boys and to be able to lead them out is an honour of for me.
“Hopefully I can lead them into battle and we can win.
“It means a lot to me as a fan to captain the U20s.
“It’s been a long time since Aberdeen have been in the Youth Cup final so to be the captain who takes them back there is amazing.
“Hopefully I can lead the team to go one step further and win it.”
The last time Aberdeen won the Youth Cup, in May 2001, Campbell was barely two months old.
The last time the Dons reached the final was May 2003 and Campbell believes it has been too long without success in the Youth Cup for a club of Aberdeen’s size.
He added: “I was born in 2001 so I wouldn’t have been aware of it (the last victory) at the time.
“It’s been far too long for a club of Aberdeen’s size and now we want to get back to winning ways in the cup.”
Campbell made his first-team debut aged 16 last May against Celtic at Pittodrie.
But he believes this match is the biggest of his fledgling career so far and said: “For me this is the biggest game of my career at the moment because it means so much to the club.
“We’ve been aware all season of how important the Youth Cup is because it’s the Scottish Cup for our age.
“The Scottish Cup meant so much for the first team so we had to make sure it meant so much for us as well.
“It won’t be as quick as a first-team game, but it will be as competitive.
“We’ll give everything we’ve got and there will be good quality on show in the game as well. Hopefully we’ve just got that extra edge over Hibs.”
If Campbell wants to make the grade at first-team level the central midfielder knows it’s occasions such as tonight’s that he can use to impress Dons boss Derek McInnes
“We know that the gaffer, Tony Docherty and Barry Robson will be watching,” he said.
“So it’s a chance for us to go and show them that we could be ready to go into their first team.
“The opportunity is there for us and you’ve seen with the likes of Scott McKenna how successful he’s been this season. If we perform well at U20s level the link is there for us to go and play.”
Aberdeen are familiar with their cup final opponents having played Hibs last week in the Development League.
The Leith men triumphed 2-0, but they did field over-age players, who won’t be able to play tonight.
Campbell knows the Reds are still in for a tough game and said: “With full 20s teams we’ll look to have more quality than them.
“We know they’re a good team and that’s shown by them winning the league.
“They’re very strong and have good players like Ryan Porteous at the back who has played in the first team this season.
“They’ve got Oli Shaw, who’s played in the first team this season.
“We just have to be on our A game all over the pitch and if we are then hopefully we’ve got enough to beat them.”
The Red Army are turning out in numbers to support the young Dons tonight, with at least six supporters buses headed for Hampden and many more fans making their own way to the ground.
He added: “It’s fantastic for the club. It shows how well-supported the club is with the fans taking their time to go.
“It could be difficult for fans with the game on a Thursday night, it’s a late one for fans.
“But to show the commitment that they have is fantastic and it will makes us want to play better and win it for those who are coming down.”