After nearly 18 long months the Red Army will finally return to Pittodrie and boss Stephen Glass reckons they will bring out the best in his team.
Glass anticipates the 5,665 Dons supporters to rock Pittodrie throughout tonight’s Uefa Europa Conference League clash against Sweden’s BK Hacken.
After more than a year of silence the Red Army’s roar will return and Glass is confident that atmosphere will create an edge to help his new look squad “display what they are really capable of.”
The Euro tie will mark the first substantial crowd at Pittodrie since fans were locked out of grounds last March due to coronavirus pandemic lockdown restrictions.
Aside from a lucky 300 at a test game against Kilmarnock last September this will be the first time Dons fans have cheered on their team since a 3-1 defeat of Hibs on March 7, 2020.
Glass said: “It’s enormous to have fans back and I can only imagine the noise there’s going to be compared to managing Aberdeen with no fans in the stadium.
“The fact that it’s sold out shows that there’s an appetite to come and see the team.
“I can imagine being a player for almost 18 months playing in front of zero fans.
“The difference supporters make to your performance level is marked and some players thrive on it and need it.
🔴 Thursday night's match with BK Hacken is now SOLD OUT!
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) July 20, 2021
“I think you’ll see a true reflection of what the players are capable of with the backing they’ll get.
“The fans giving us that backing is brilliant. I think the players will really respond.
“Anytime you hear a game is sold out it is brilliant and the players are really excited.
“We know what has gone into being able to get people into the stadium.
“We are grateful for everybody that has allowed it and now we are looking forward to the excitement of playing in front of people again.”
New territory for Glass with Red Army
Glass has no injury concerns for the second qualifying round first leg tie although summer signing Declan Gallagher is suspended.
The Scotland international defender was sent off for Motherwell last season in a 3-0 Europa League loss to Hapoel Beer-Sheva and that suspension has carried over.
Glass admits he will be entering new territory tonight when leading out the Dons in front of supporters.
Having been appointed manager on March 23 Glass led the Dons in the post split Premiership games and the Scottish Cup campaign – all behind closed doors.
The two pre-season friendly matches this summer were also played behind closed doors at the club’s Cormack Park training complex.
He said: “In a way, it’s a different thing for myself and the staff to handle a game at this club with fans.
“It feels different managing in front of fans as well. I had a similar experience in the States where there was no one and then they allowed fans in.”
CONCACAF Champions League experience
However leading a team out in a continental knock-out competition is not new to Glass.
Although tonight will be his first experience of European action as a boss he has managed in the latter stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.
It is the North America, Central America, and the Caribbean equivalent of the Uefa European Champions League.
Glass was in interim charge of Atlanta United for a CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final second round clash with Club America in December 2020 following the exit of Frank de Boer.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) December 17, 2020
He inherited a difficult situation as the first leg tie had been played nine months earlier on March 11, just before football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Managed by de Boer in that first leg Atlanta United lost 3-0 in Mexico City.
Glass was manager for the return leg almost a year later on December 11 and masterminded a 1-0 defeat of Club America, the most successful club in the CONCACAF Champions League having won the trophy seven times.
Right-back Jack Gurr, who signed for Aberdeen during the summer, came on as a second half substitute against Club America for his Atlanta United debut.
Glass said: “I’m hopeful that we can need the experiences of that because Club America is probably the biggest and best club in the Americas.
“We were chasing a three goal deficit from one of Frank’s last games in charge.
“It was difficult but it shows you can put belief in a team even when it feels like the game might be gone already.
“That’s what I took from that game.
“If we get to the stage that we are playing the biggest and best club I think we will have shown that myself and my staff can win a game against the best teams.
‘Hacken are a very good team but if we are in the play off round there’s an experience we can lean on.”
No thoughts of next round… yet!
Aberdeen already know the reward should they overcome BK Hacken over two legs.
They would face either Austria Wien (Austria) or Breidablik (Iceland) in the third qualifying round.
Glass is not looking that far ahead.
Asked if he had looked at potential next round opponents yet, he said: “No. You look at the draw but you can end up doing too much homework on a game that’s not going to happen.
“At the minute we have Dundee United then Livingston in the back of our minds and we have to be focused on Hacken.
“We are aware of who it will be but we will look at it after the first leg and maybe start nailing it down if one of them has pulled away.”