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Battle to secure a Euro start for Aberdeen hotting up, insists Declan Gallagher

Aberdeen signing Declan Gallagher in action for Scotland during the Euro 2020 play-off match against Israel.
Aberdeen signing Declan Gallagher in action for Scotland during the Euro 2020 play-off match against Israel.

Defender Declan Gallagher insists there is a fierce battle raging within Aberdeen’s training training camp to earn a Euro starting slot.

The Dons kick-start their Uefa Europa Conference League campaign against Swedish side BK Hacken at Pittodrie on Thursday.

The significance of the second qualifying round first leg tie ramped up with confirmation 5,665 supporters will be allowed access.

After 17 months of being locked out of the stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic supporters will finally be back.

Summer signing Gallagher insists every player is busting a gut in training to earn a starting slot in front of the Red Army.

The Dons completed their pre-season friendlies with a 0-0 stalemate against St Johnstone at Cormack Park on Friday.

The Scotland international said: “Everyone is fighting for places because we all want to play in that first European game.

“It is definitely getting tasty in training but it is all good.

“I have seen a massive increase in standard since I got here.

“The manager, Russ (Allan Russell, assistant manager) and Henry (Apaloo, coach) have been working hard every day to get us fit and ready for the first European tie.

“There has been a massive increase in the workload that I can see.”

Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson in pre-season friendly action in the 0-0 draw with St Johnstone. Supplied by Newsline Media for Aberdeen FC

Group stages the target for Gallagher

Aberdeen are competing in Europe for an eighth successive season although this is the first the Reds will play in the Uefa Conference League.

Uefa introduced the competition, the third tier of European club tournament football, for this season.

In the seven previous campaigns in the Europa League the Reds failed to reach the lucrative group stages, progressing only as far as the third qualifying round.

Former Motherwell skipper Gallagher, who penned a two year contract at Pittodrie, insists he is determined to achieve ‘great things’ by reaching the groups in Glass’ first European campaign as Aberdeen boss.

He said: “I want to do well for this club in Europe.

“I don’t want to be a typical Scottish club that plays the first couple of rounds.

“I want to see if we can create a little bit of history for Scotland.

“It is a hard task but you have to have aspirations.

“We want to achieve great things at this club as it is a massive club.”

Scott Brown leads the way during an Aberdeen training session at Cormack Park

Aberdeen have had just two pre-season friendlies in the build up to the Euro clash with a BK Hacken side deep into their domestic campaign.

Glass’ rebuilt side were scheduled to have four closed door friendlies at Cormack Park but matches against Reading and Cove Rangers were both cancelled.

The decision was made to cancel the game against Reading after three positive Covid-19 results were recorded within the camp of the English championship side.

A match against Cove Rangers was also cancelled due to Covid-19 issues at the League One side.

Aberdeen have strike power for Euro tie

There has been just one goal, from summer signing Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, in the two friendlies leading up to the European opener.

However Gallagher is confident new strikers Emmanuel-Thomas and United States international Christian Ramirez have the fire power to shoot down BK Hacken.

Aberdeen striker Jay Emmanuel-Thomas netted in the friendly against Inverness Caley Thistle.

Asked what JET and Ramirez bring, he said: “Goals. That is what they are there to do.

“Christian definitely knows where the back of the net is, that’s for sure.

“In training he has been sharp, looks good and definitely knows his way around the box and how to find space for a shot

“Both of them are very good link up players who will get us up the park.

“I have no fear that they will definitely bring goals.”

Searching for European redemption

Having reached a pre-contract agreement with Aberdeen in May centre-back Gallagher officially became an Aberdeen player following his involvement at Euro 2020 with Scotland.

He has recent experience of continental action at club level having played in Motherwell’s Europa League campaign last season.

The Steelmen saw off Glentoran and Coleraine before facing Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel in the third qualifying round.

European ties were reduced to one leg last season due to the pandemic and Motherwell crashed out 3-0.

It was a forgettable night for Gallagher who was sent off in the tie.

He insists valuable lessons were learnt in that defeat to the Israelis.

Lessons about European competition that he will take into the tie with BK Hacken.

Scotland’s Declan Gallagher in action during the 2-2 friendly draw with Netherlands.

Gallagher said: “I know what to expect, from playing two part-time teams from Ireland and then Hapoel Beer-Sheva in Israel, which was a different standard.

“It was a game that obviously didn’t go well for me but it was a learning curve.

“When you look at the game against Hapoel, we lost a goal right on half-time which isn’t a great time to lose a goal.

“We did well but it just shows they had that little bit too much for us.

“It’s something that I want to rectify now that I’m here.”



This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.