Derek McInnes wants James Wilson to seize his chance to be an Aberdeen hero in today’s Betfred Cup final against Celtic.
The Manchester United striker joined the Dons on loan in August but has found the net just twice, while also struggling with niggling injuries.
He was substituted at half-time in the 3-0 defeat to Motherwell last weekend and has completed 90 minutes just once in the red of Aberdeen.
Wilson was criticised early in his career by ex-United reserve team boss Warren Joyce, who felt he, Adnan Januzaj and Federico Macheda had not worked hard to build on their early emergence into the first team.
McInnes has no concerns about Wilson – who turned 23 yesterday – and hopes today’s occasion gives him and fellow loanee Max Lowe the chance to shine.
He said: “He works hard and I’ve no problems. Working hard is non-negotiable. If you don’t work hard, you don’t play and you don’t get signed.
“For me there’s no problems with any players down to work-rate. If we lose we lose trying to be honest.
“You sometimes hope the bigger the game the bigger the performance and you can tell a lot about your players in these moments.
“We’ve been in semi-finals and finals at Hampden enough times to familiarise yourself with the surroundings, but for young Max (Lowe) and James then Sunday is a great opportunity for them and all my players to be part of a successful team at Aberdeen and also to accelerate their own careers.”
Wilson has been beset by bad luck, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while on loan at Derby in October 2016 a year after being handed a four-year contract by Louis van Gaal.
He and others will be required to up their game, if Aberdeen are to topple Celtic in a major final.
McInnes added: “I’m hoping all my players perform well, regardless of who’s playing. I feel as though the level of performance required to beat this Celtic team will be greater than what we’ve shown, apart from a few spells this season.
“Can we go and take Celtic on, in a possession-based game? We have to be smart with our work. Games are normally decided by moments of quality and mistakes. We’ve got talented players at the top end of the pitch and with James and others, we have a real good work ethic as a team. That’s why we normally finish second in the league.
“To actually go on to that next step and win a trophy, you need a bit of everything to go your way. Like every team, we’re searching for that moment of quality.”