Derek McInnes reckons Lewis Ferguson could earn international recognition at Aberdeen.
Ferguson, who penned a two-year extension to his contract yesterday, is already capped at under-21 level for Scotland and McInnes pointed to the track record of Dons players stepping up to the full side in recent years.
Scott McKenna, Graeme Shinnie, Mikey Devlin and Kenny McLean all earned Scotland call-ups under McInnes, while Gary Mackay-Steven was handed a recall to the international scene after a brief taste of it at Dundee United.
McInnes said: “If he is a key player in a successful Aberdeen team as he is now then we have seen before how that can get you in Scotland squads. I think we would all expect him to make that step into the international set-up in due course but we don’t need to rush him into that.
“He’s just a natural footballer who will deal with whatever is asked of him and he has been everything I hoped he would be. You get a feeling for a player and everything I thought he was he has been. Young, determined and single-minded right from day one here.
“He has been great to work with and he is only going to get better so it’s great that he wants to do that here and the contract is a reflection of how well he’s done so far. The end game for him would be being part of the national team but no one is banging the drum for him right now.”
With a number of players out of contract in the summer – Mackay-Steven and Shinnie are just two of them – the importance of tying down one of his prized assets for the long-term is not lost on the Aberdeen boss.
He added: “I often get asked about the difficulties of keeping young players here and it is a challenge to do that. You have disappointments when you can’t do that so it is right to enjoy it when you do manage to get a player like Lewis deciding they want to be here for the long term.
“He came in and attacked the testing and set such a high level for himself right from the off and maintained that ever since. Lewis has been asked to play several roles in midfield because we trust him to do whatever job we ask him to do. It’s difficult for any teenager to cement a place in any Premiership club and play week-in-week-out and to do at one with the expectations we have at Aberdeen is tough.
“Every club will have young players who come in and out of the team and show little glimpses of promise then have a dip. We have never had that dip with Lewis and hopefully he can continue that by going on from strength-to-strength as we expect.