Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has heralded Dean Campbell’s progress as the midfielder looks to seize his first-team chance.
Campbell, who made his debut in May 2017, has now started the last three games and has impressed McInnes with how he has taken his opportunity.
The Dons manager insists he wanted to get away from seeing Campbell as a “nice” player, encouraging him to additional facets to his game.
He has been able to get forward in recent games, impressing in the 1-0 defeat to Celtic, while also performing diligent man-marking duties in midfield.
McInnes said: “He’s doing well. That’s part of our job, to bring young players through. It’s about getting the balance right when you bring players in. We’ve seen a lot of players move on and Dean has been in and around the squad for a few seasons now.
“He’s getting a run now. He gives us balance in there. He puts his foot on the ball, but he’s also getting his hands dirty and playing a bit more vertical now in getting up and down the pitch and getting against people. When we first came across Dean and we looked at him, we didn’t want him to be that nice player that everybody says he is.
“Nice doesn’t cut it as a central midfield player. As nice on the eye as he is, he’s also becoming a more rounded player and that part of his game pleases me. He’s looking for second balls and against Killie, he was looking for Kiltie, looking for Whitehall. It’s tough on him, he’s really got to concentrate.
“Against Celtic, he was up against Ryan Christie and worked off of him and played in his area of the pitch. Ryan Christie is a top, top player and one of the best in Scotland and he dealt with him. He’s learning all the time and hopefully he can keep learning in a winning Aberdeen team, which will help him.”
Conditions of late have also been difficult, as is the norm in the winter months in Scotland, which has allowed McInnes to see a different side to Campbell.
He added: “I’ve found a wee bit out about him recently. He’s been like that for the last wee while. Playing in tough conditions, the wind and that, sometimes you’ve just got to go toe to toe with your opponent, get your hands dirty and do the yards.
“Being a midfielder myself, running up and down the pitch, matching runs, winning tackles, sometimes the enjoyment doesn’t come from the game, but from the result. He’s still learning on the job.
“That young midfield was very good at Celtic Park. McCrorie, Ferguson, Campbell are three babies really with a lot of game time under their belt. They’re doing away fine, the three of them.”