Growing up a Manchester United fan, Ryan Hedges was well aware of what European football meant to Aberdeen.
The two clubs are inextricably linked through managerial great Sir Alex Ferguson, who brought continental success to both clubs and arguably put both on the map in Uefa competitions.
Ferguson won the Cup Winners’ Cup with the Dons in 1983, which ultimately earned him the switch to Old Trafford three years later.
His 27 years with the Red Devils would prove seismic, leading them to 12 Premier League titles and two Champions League triumphs.
Hedges, a summer arrival at Aberdeen from Barnsley, needed little reminding of that heritage upon his move to Pittodrie. But it brought back some good memories nonetheless.
Hedges said: “As a Manchester United fan I was well aware of Aberdeen’s rich history in Europe. I know all about the Fergie era. My dad was a big United fan and he drilled Manchester United and Fergie into me. It’s all I really knew, growing up.
“When I came up to visit the club it was something I already knew about. I knew all about the games against Bayern Munich a few years ago too.
“There’s all the pictures around the stadium as well and there’s the quote from (Alfredo) Di Stéfano on the wall as you go out. You see it every day when you are walking around the stadium.
“A European run is something we would all like to replicate this season. I think United fans down south know all about the Fergie era at Aberdeen. He got that European trophy and put his name on the board and that got him his job at Manchester United.”
That Alfredo Di Stefano quote – “Aberdeen have what money can’t buy; a soul, a team spirit built in a family tradition” – came after the 1983 triumph in Gothenburg.
While Aberdeen are a way off replicating such triumphs just yet, tonight’s second leg against Europa League opponents Chikhura Sachkhere gives them opportunity to go one step closer to the group stages.
They would reach the third qualifying round with victory, which has proved the limitation of their European adventures under Derek McInnes.
Hedges said: “The players who have been to Rijeka away before and won. There’s no reason whey we can’t replicate that if we go through. A few of the lads like Ash and Andy have been there before and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it again. And here with a full house there’s no reason why we can’t get into the play-off round.”
The Welsh winger idolised Ryan Giggs growing up and given their similar positions, you can understand why.
However, Hedges was required to show another string to his bow in last week’s first leg in Tbilisi. Injury to Ash Taylor required a defensive reshuffle and Hedges spent the second half at left-back, throwing him out of his comfort zone.
Hedges added: “I’ve not really played there at all before in my career but if the gaffer asks me to do a job I’ll do it to the best of my ability. I have dabbled as a left back when I was a kid. As long as it’s not a regular feature I’m happy to help out. It’s not a position I want to play but I’ll always help the team.”
For McInnes, while there were positives to take from the away trip to Georgia, he knows the tie is far from a foregone conclusion.
McInnes said: “You have to get the balance right between attack and defence in these games. The changes we had to make obviously didn’t help and when we went a goal down it was important we didn’t lose another one.
“These matches are over two ties and this week we will try to show more aggression. They will still feel the game is alive and will hope to have moments in the game.”