Aberdeen’s 5-1 demolition of Sweden’s BK Hacken in Europa Conference League qualifying will have raised everybody’s expectations about what the Dons can achieve this season.
It’s one game and the cynics might say “it could be a one-off”, but Stephen Glass looks to have assembled a squad with a great mix of experience and youth.
Everybody at Pittodrie – Glass, the players, the board and fans – must have been really encouraged after seeing the Reds’ preparation work pay-off with a big second qualifying round first leg victory to take to Scandinavia on Thursday.
The Premiership opener, at home to Dundee United, is also this Sunday and hopes for the league campaign will now have stepped up a notch.
If they can reproduce performances like they put on against Hacken in the coming months, they are going to be up there in the league, with the potential for cup silverware and a European run also.
I don’t think the Red Army could’ve asked for a better opening to the season when you take everything into consideration, including Aberdeen’s rebuilt squad under new manager Glass and the fact they only managed two pre-season friendlies before the Hacken clash.
If the Dons were undercooked in what was a big European game against a team on form and well into the the Swedish Allsvenskan season, they didn’t show it.
Not only Hacken’s form, but their track record as consistent finishers in the top half of their domestic league, shows they’re no mugs, and it was one quite a lot of people – including myself – were feeling cautious about.
But the performance blew all those thoughts out of my head – it was spectacular and the fans would’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Glass, his staff and the players must have been so pleased, having publicly stated how excited they were to get going with the 2021/22 campaign, to come out the blocks the way they did. They certainly didn’t let anybody down.
All round it was good team performance against Hacken – but I thought summer signing Jay Emmanuel-Thomas stood out, in the first half especially.
It was his vision, his skill, his understanding, his passing – everything. He carried out his work to a really high standard and was influential.
To produce such a showing in his first competitive game, having joined from Premiership rivals Livingston in the summer, hinted at what could be to come over the course of the campaign.
“JET” perhaps dipped slightly in the second half, but it was something special before the break, with the Dons going in 2-0 up.
Funso Ojo was another player who stood out. His form was on a different planet compared to last season, when former boss Derek McInnes shipped him out on loan to Wigan.
You could list so many players as having a terrific game – Lewis Ferguson in the advanced midfield role, veteran Andy Considine popping up with the goal to open the scoring and settle the nerves.
I think Emmanuel-Thomas’ strike partner, United States international Christian Ramirez, getting his goal could be a really significant moment.
An incoming striker always has to get over the all-important hurdle of getting their first goal for the club. To do it on debut must have been a great feeling for Ramirez, who showed great instincts to be near the goal-line to turn home Jack MacKenzie’s cross.
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It was good to see young right-back Calvin Ramsay, 17 – as a starter – and substitute left-back MacKenzie, 21, pick up where they left off last term and continue to impress under Glass.
Meanwhile, another slightly more experienced youth academy product Connor McLennan, also 21, netted a sparkling fifth for the Reds.
We’re talking here about youth coming through and showing loads of ability and potential, as well as the experienced players who shone in the game – and I haven’t even mentioned Scott Brown yet!
The new Aberdeen team captain may have been quiet in a football sense as the Dons controlled proceedings, but his influence within the team unit – in organising and encouraging – was clear to see.
When you consider they’ve still got Scotland centre-back Declan Gallagher to come into the team, the supporters must be licking their lips about what could be in store this season.