Gothenburg Great Neil Simpson today urged Aberdeen’s Under-20s to write their name in the club’s history books by lifting the Scottish Youth Cup at Hampden.
The young Dons will bid to secure the trophy for the first time since 2001 when they face Hibs at the national stadium on Thursday at 7.30pm.
Aberdeen have only won the prestigious trophy three times previously – 2001, 1985 and 1986.
Standing in their way of a first Scottish Youth Cup win in 17 years are the recently-crowned SPFL Development League champions Hibs.
Head of Aberdeen Youth Academy Simpson said: “This is an opportunity to represent Aberdeen in a final at Hampden and make a mark.
“I am confident our players will revel in being at the national stadium.
“They are good players within a strong team that is well coached.
“In terms of prestige and how people view your youth programme it is how you do in youth cups.
“I don’t think that is a definite marker of where you are but it does show how well you have done.
“You can see the young players improving all the time with the coaching from Paul Sheerin (U20 coach) and Scott Anderson (U17 coach).”
Aberdeen’s young guns booked their Hampden slot in emphatic style with a 3-0 semi defeat of Kilmarnock.
Opponents Hibs edged through in a penalty shoot-out win over defending champions Celtic.
Aberdeen lost 2-0 to Hibs in the league last week but Simpson is confident the tables can be turned.
He said: “I have spoken to Paul (Sheerin) and Scott (Anderson) about that game and we played very well against Hibs.
“Hibs had four over-aged players but we were still right on the money.
“We still have Frank Ross to come back into the squad and Harlain Mbayo who is out on loan at Albion Rovers will also be back.
“Hibs have some good players who have made the first team, like Aberdeen, and it has all the ingredients of a great final.
“It is good for the game that it is two teams outwith Celtic and Rangers as they normally do quite well in the tournament.”
Securing a Scottish Youth Cup final slot is another milestone for the Pittodrie Youth Academy having claimed the SPFL Development League title in the 2014-15 season.
Simpson hopes playing in a final at such a young age can be the first step on a career with many more Hampden games.
He said: “Playing in a final at Hampden is a tremendous experience and allows players to fix on just what it is like to play at the national stadium.
“My first time at Hampden was in a friendly at Queens Park and there were not many people there.
“This week our young players will be there, but they will be in a final.
“The hope for the young players is that there is future there where they are playing in cup finals and Hamdpen with Aberdeen’s first team.”
Simpson is definitive proof of the route available from the Pittodrie youth academy all the way up to the Dons first team. A product of the club’s youth system, the Aberdeen-raised Simpson broke into the squad as a teenager.
He would go on to win every Scottish honour under Sir Alex Ferguson and claim the European Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup double in 1983.
Scotland international Scott McKenna is the latest product of the youth system to make the breakthrough.
McKenna was handed a first start of the season in the 1-0 defeat of Motherwell away in September, and grabbed that opportunity.
His superb form was rewarded with a debut Scotland call-up and McKenna started against Costa Rica and Hungary.
His form prompted Championship Hull City to make four bids for him during the January transfer window with the final in excess of £1 million. All were rejected by the Reds.
He said: “Scott should be an inspiration for the players in the U20s. It shows how quickly in terms of the game things can turn.
“Eight months ago Scott didn’t know if he was going out on loan or what was happening.
“Since then he has ended up playing for Scotland and being the man of the match.
“It shows anything is possible. You just have to look at Andy Robertson who was playing for Queens Park and is now at the top level with Liverpool.
“The inspiration is there for all young kids to see.” U20 players Daniel Harvie and Frank Ross have had game time with the first team this term.
Ross scored a superb free-kick in the 2-1 loss to Rangers in December.
Simpson confirmed there are a host of exciting young stars ready to make the breakthrough. He said: “Frank Ross undoubtedly has the ability and hopefully his experience of going to Morton (on loan) will pave the way for him.
“Dean Campbell and Seb Ross are both outstanding.
“Bruce Anderson scored a hat-trick in the semi and has had that experience of being out on loan at Elgin.
“Connor McLennan has had a wee shot in the first team already but injuries knocked him back a bit.
“Hopefully this final will be the springboard for him.
“Ethan Ross is still under 17 and is a top talent, who is a regular with Scotland through U15 and 16 and 17.
“The Ross brothers are pushing each other on. All the players are doing very well.”