A new season beckons for Aberdeen and it’s one unlike any other.
Fans will be absent from the stadium when the Dons get the 2020-21 campaign underway on Saturday against Rangers at Pittodrie.
Scottish football can thank the coronavirus for that.
But former Dons goalkeeper Bobby Clark, who has returned to Scotland after decades in the United States as a revered coach in college football, believes the new season is one his old club should be approaching with positivity.
He said: “I’m optimistic for the team this season. Derek McInnes has a good squad there. He has a very good goalkeeper, good options at centre-half and a lot of experience in midfield.
“I haven’t seen much of Jonny Hayes as I was still in the States when he was here before but everyone tells me I will enjoy watching him play while Matty Kennedy was a terrific signing in January.
“With Ryan Hedges, Dean Campbell, Connor McLennan and Scott Wright all there Derek has lots of options but Niall McGinn remains the key man for me.
“He’s a great wide player but I wonder if the number 10 position is his best role. On paper he looks a good fit there as he makes clever runs and is very good link-up player.
“Then there is Sam Cosgrove, Curtis Main and Bruce Anderson. Bruce has been impressive in the friendlies while we all know what Sam offers the team.
“What I like about Curtis is how hard he works for the team but Derek has three different types of player to choose from those three.”
While Scottish football fans have been given a glimpse of what lies ahead by watching matches from other countries played out without the passionate roar of the crowd Clark believes it is not the supporters who will have a hard time adjusting.
He insists it is the players who face the biggest culture change as they prepare for a step into the unknown.
He said: “It’s clear it is going to be different this season. I’ve watched a few Premier League games in England and they have come back to finish season by playing matches which were meaningful either in terms of the title, European places or relegation.
“In Scotland it will be a little different as we’re starting the season. For Rangers and Celtic all the focus will be on 10-in-a-row and maybe there is opportunity there for a club like Aberdeen to take advantage of that.
“I watched some of the Bundesliga when it returned as Germany was the first country back and it struck me how well away teams did in going to grounds where there were no fans present.
“Whether that comes into play in Scotland remains to be seen.
“It will have been a very different pre-season to what the players are used to. Usually by the time of the first game they have played four or five friendlies and between four and six competitive Europa League ties but I’m sure there will be a lot of excitement among the players at getting going again.”
For this weekend at least the excitement is palpable, but Clark is keen to see how long the novelty of playing behind closed doors lasts.
He said: “The crucial bit we don’t know is once that excitement dies down and we’re into September and it all becomes run of the mill will it affect any of the clubs?
“I don’t worry about the Rangers game or the trip to Celtic for that matter as those matches take care of themselves.
“It’s matches against St Johnstone and Hamilton which I’ll be looking at. We struggled at times last season and those are the sort of games we have to take care of if we want to be up there.
“I don’t know how Motherwell, who did so well last season, will get on and I expect Hibs to be strong this year. I think we’ve got an exciting campaign ahead of us.”