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Monday, 21 August 2017 14:36

The Next Step: Young Dons

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Every year across Scotland, a handful of young men fulfill their boyhood dreams when they sign full-time for a football club. Here at YFS we're putting the spotlight on the new kids on the block who've just made the grade from youth academy level to the professional game, as they make the next step in their promising careers.
With Derek McInnes remaining at Pittodrie for another season, this could be the perfect opportunity for the club’s new signings to show the Aberdeen manager what they’ve got in their locker. Behind the big names however, there’s those who have signed their first professional contracts.
With squad rotation key for maintaining a good challenge in each competition Aberdeen will face, some of the club’s youth players may get the chance to prove their worth. 
Ethan Ross
After featuring for Aberdeen’s U20s side multiple times last season, Ethan Ross’ efforts have been rewarded with his first professional contract. A product of the SFA’s Performance school, Ethan also has a degree of international experience under his belt. The attacking midfielder featured in Scotland’s under 15s squad back in September 2015 and has been called upon again for the under 17s international tournament that starts 18 August 2017.
Former Aberdeen player, Neil Simpson spoke to Aberdeen’s Media Team about the youngster’s talent, he said: “Ethan is a midfield player who likes to get forward. He is good at finding little pockets of space to get on the ball. His first thought is always to go forward and he is good at making late runs into the box. Technically, he is a really good player. Obviously, he has a mentor in his brother Seb who is a year older and another player we have high hopes for.
"Patrick Maughan, our Youth Academy Sports Scientist, has worked on his physicality and I think when he becomes fully grown, there is huge potential in Ethan. He's a really good player.” The experience gained with the national side, could mean that the 16-year-old might just get his shot with McInnes’ squad this season. 
Dean Campbell 
Having been within the club’s youth academy since the age of eight, Dean Campbell is one to watch out for in the near future. The midfielder has won the club’s Statoil Talent of the Year for three years in a row, an award which recognises the best talent between the Under 13 to Under 17 age groups. 
His hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed as he has been called up upon for Derek McInnes first team, making his debut in a defeat at home to Celtic. His introduction at Pittodrie back in May made him the club’s youngest ever first team debutant, at the age of 16 years, one month and 23 days. 
McInnes spoke to the Aberdeen Evening Express about Campbell’s debut, he said: “It was well earned by Dean, who is probably the biggest Aberdeen fan there is. 
“It will have meant a lot to him after being at school earlier in the day. 
“Hopefully it’s the first of many because he’s a boy we think a lot of.” 
The 16-year-old continues to work hard within the club’s Under 17s squad and has also captained the Under 20s side too. With a recent call up to the under 17s Scottish national side, Campbell has a bright future ahead of him. 
Archie Mair 
One of the most important factors for Archie Mair now that he has graduated from the club’s youth academy is the experience he will now gain training alongside fellow goalkeeper, Joe Lewis. The Aberdeen number one only joined the club in June last year, however, the experience he has playing for big clubs south of the border such as Norwich City and Fulham, will make him a great mentor for the 16-year-old. 
Mair, like his teammates Ethan Ross and Dean Campbell, has been called up to Scotland’s Under 17s squad for the upcoming tournament which makes this a great opportunity to show his worth. 
Speaking to Aberdeen’s Media Team, Neil Campbell, who won three Scottish Cups while at the club and is currently the Head of the Youth Academy, spoke of Mair’s talent. He said: “Every time I see Archie Mair, he seems to have grown! What's good about Archie is that he is the modern goalkeeper. He is fantastic with the ball at his feet, a great passer of the ball. He is a goalkeeper who loves to play out from the back when he can. He is a good footballer as well as a good goalkeeper. 
“Its early days but he has all the raw materials to be a really good goalkeeper- and he has also been involved at international level.”
While it may be too early for the goalkeeper to feature in the first team, a shot at Aberdeen’s Under 20s side could be on the cards for the upcoming talent this season. 
Jack MacKenzie
While the youngster has been plagued with injuries related to his knee in recent years, it does not over shine the potential talent the left back has in store. Jack started well in the 16/17 season, winning the club’s Statoil Talent of the Month award for his efforts at the back. 
Neil Campbell spoke to the club’s media regarding winning the award, he said: “Jack has really impressed everyone with his displays since the start of the season. His defending, use of the ball and forward runs in the final third have been a highlight of his play.”
The 17-year-old also won the The John Delday Award for the Under 17s last season, a prize that rewards exceptional standards, with specific emphasis on creativity and technique. A lot of the previous winners of these awards have gone on to be successful professionals for the club so there is no reason that MacKenzie can’t follow this trend. 
With the ability to also play in midfield, Derek McInnes could call upon the player due to his flexibility of position in the tough stages of the season. 
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