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Who are the six new under-18s players who have signed their first professional contracts with Aberdeen?

A goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and a striker are showcased by academy chief Gavin Levey after making the grade all the way through the Dons' youth set-up to pen their first pro deals.

Aberdeen FC academy director Gavin Levey. Image: Aberdeen FC.
Aberdeen FC academy director Gavin Levey. Image: Aberdeen FC.

Aberdeen’s academy director Gavin Levey has shone a light on six new recruits stepping up to the Premiership club’s under-18s as full-time professionals.

Goalkeeper Rodrigo Vitols, central defender Jamie Mercer, right-back Victor Enem, central midfielder Ellis Clark, attacking midfielder Fletcher Boyd and striker Fraser Mackie have progressed to AFC’s U18 development group, having risen through the Reds’ youth set-up.

Excitement about class of 2023

Levey spoke to the Dons’ website about how the group’s progression is a further sign of the excellent work going on at academy level, while manager Barry Robson simultaneously builds up the first-team pool after a third-placed top-flight finish last season.

He said: “We are really excited about the boys coming in this year again. They were all part of an under-16 side that won the Club Academy Scotland League at that age group.

“There is a good balance this year with the players who join on their first professional contracts as there is an even split between defensive and attack-minded players to complement the existing under-18 group led by Scott Anderson and Stuart Duff.

“They arrived at Pittodrie Stadium with their parents on Friday evening to officially sign their contracts and as we sat down pitch side, we emphasised the point that this time last year we were speaking to the likes of Alfie Bavidge and his family, and at a club like ours there’s a great chance that one of you could go on and made their debut for the first-team.

“Alfie managed to do that and also Findlay Marshall has continued to be involved with the first-team squad. So we have put out the same challenge this season to these players. We truly believe that is possible as we have such a visible pathway at Aberdeen.

“Barry will continue to utilise the under-18s in first-team training groups, as he’s well aware of the capabilities of the young players and is determined to stretch their development and see how they cope in the first-team environment.”

Aberdeen’s Alfie Bavidge is an example of great talent at the club. Image: SNS.

Dons talent sourced at a young age

Levey also pointed to the terrific work carried out many years ago by the Reds’ scouting stars led by Jim Fraser, which has unearthed the talent now soaring to under-18 level.

He added: “All these players who have signed professional contracts were recruited by our head of academy recruitment Jim Fraser and his scouting team, who do a terrific job.

“Every one of this year’s group started with us at the academy, aged eight-to-10 years old and have come right through the system.

“The recruitment team work tirelessly to ensure we have a great starting point to enable the coaches and support staff to help nurture each individual’s potential.

“None of this would be possible if it was not for the work of Jim and his team eight or nine years ago identifying the talent we believe that these players have.”

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson will bring under-18s talent into his first-team training. Image: SNS.

High standards from keeper Vitols

Levey spoke in detail about each of the six players – here are some snippets of what he said about each one.

On stop-stopper Vitols, he said: “As well as being a very good goalkeeper, Rodrigo has strong leadership attributes for someone his age.

“Rodrigo is someone who has been out to a lot of international tournaments over the years and impressed at that level.

“He is very dedicated and sets himself very high standards and he puts a lot of pressure on himself to perform at the highest level.”

Mercer is ‘very competitive’

Levey explained he has been impressed by defender Mercer’s impressive progression.

He said: “Jamie came in at the end of the under-10s season and since then has been a player who has always played up a level.

“He started out as more of a left-back who could play at centre back, but we always felt his strongest position would be in the left side of central defence.

“Jamie is a very competitive defender who loves a challenge, whether that be in the air or on the ground. He goes into every tackle full blooded and trains the way he plays.”

Enem has played full season for 18s

Right-back Enem has had a year of being part of the 18s group and stood up to the challenge.

Levey said: “Whilst some of our graduates got a taste of under-18 football last season, Victor played the whole season. That is a great credit to himself.

Pittodrie Stadium. Image: Shutterstock.

“Victor, who is from the Bridge of Don, attended the SFA Performance School at Hazlehead Academy and has worked with Stuart Glennie over the years in there, but this year has almost been treated like an under-18 player, which will have greatly advanced up his development.”

No such thing as a weaker foot with Clark

Midfielder Clark, has captured Robson’s attention already with the quality of his play, according to Levey.

He said: “Throughout his time in the academy, Ellis has very much stayed in his position of central midfielder.

“(He’s) very two-footed, comfortable on both sides and you don’t use the words ‘weaker foot’ with Ellis.

“Has had a very good range of pass and from a young age has always seen the game very well. He is a player Barry Robson has always been very excited about, because of how capable he is on the ball.”

Fast-paced Boyd has upfront impact

And attack-minded Boyd clearly has the talent to make things happen in advanced areas of the park.

The parallels between the player’s position and roots, and those of a certain Eoin Jess, won’t be lost on Dons fans…

Levey said: “Fletcher is the youngest of the group. He grew up in Portsoy before moving to the SFA Performance School.

“He is a player who has played up one or two age groups regularly during his time at the academy.

“Fletcher can play up front or as an attacking midfielder and is very fast, so can be equally effective in the wide areas or through the middle. It is his impact in the final third that is key.”

Mackie has a proven eye for goals

And, of exciting Mackie, Levey said: “Left-footed, Fraser predominantly has played through the middle as a striker. He was top goalscorer in two of the really high standard European tournaments during his journey in the academy.

“Fraser has a real eye for goal, (is) clever with his movement and is someone we see as having a lot of goals in him. He has proved that at every age group he has played at.”