RYAN Jack watched Jimmy Calderwood’s Aberdeen match Bayern Munich six years ago and is convinced he can be part of a similar European success under Derek McInnes this season.
The 22-year-old midfielder was a star-struck youngster in the Pittodrie stand the night the Dons held the Bundesliga giants to a 2-2 draw in the Uefa Cup.
It was certainly a memorable performance against a German side containing players like Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.
Unfortunately, reality bit deep in the return leg with a 5-1 thrashing in the Allianz Arena to end a run that included group games against Atletico Madrid and FC Copenhagen.
However, that result was certainly easier to take than the same scoreline inflicted by Sigma Olomouc at Pittodrie the last time Aberdeen qualified for Europe five years ago.
Jack was also in the stand for that one but believes the quality in the squad McInnes has assembled gives real hope for optimism this time.
They may start with a far from glamorous tie at home to Latvian unknowns FK Daugava Riga tonight but the Scotland under-21 international is aiming a lot higher than that.
He said: “The Sigma Olomouc experience wasn’t a good one for the club but that is in the past and a lot of things have changed.
“The squad has changed and the manager has changed so we will be looking to do our best and see where it takes us.
“The Bayern Munich game was the best experience for me because the result itself was unbelievable.
“The crowd and the atmosphere on that night created a real excitement of being in Europe. It was a great feeling and I wasn’t even playing. Just imagine what it would be like playing and being involved on the night. Now we can get that feeling back to the club, players and the fans.
“The players Bayern Munich had on show that night just shows you when a club like Aberdeen is on their game they can match any team.
“I think a lot of people write Scottish teams off before they have even entered the competition. We are just excited and ready to get going.”
That’s certainly the message from the Aberdeen manager as he stands on the threshold of his second full season in charge.
Of course, McInnes would have preferred not to be in competitive action quite so early but he’s certainly not going to moan about the chance to take charge of a first European tie.
The Dons players may have had their holidays cut short but they are as well prepared as possible for the first of a potential four qualifying rounds.
Dutch side FC Groningen await the winners of this tie and Aberdeen certainly looked fit and ready in a 7-0 win at Arbroath in their third and final warm-up match last Saturday.
They are expected to be too strongly for a team currently seventh in the ten-team Latvian top division, but McInnes is taking nothing for granted.
He’s been able to study nearly all of their matches this season on video – they are 19 games into their campaign – while the club’s new youth team coach Paul Sheerin was in Riga to see their recent 5-1 defeat against the Latvian league leaders.
That just happens to be Skonto Riga, who handed Aberdeen one of their most embarrassing defeats in continental competition 20 years ago next month.
McInnes is probably sick hearing about that little bit of history since being paired with FK Daugava but it does reinforce his outwardly cautious approach to the tie. He said: “Teams who are in European competition are there because they have had a good campaign the previous season.
“That means there is an element of confidence there, like is there within our group and we are not naive enough to think that we just need to turn up.
“We will need to put in a performance like we do most weeks, otherwise we won’t get the result we want.
“Although we can talk to the players about the opposition, certain players and their style of play, ultimately it will be our own efforts that decide whether or not we get through or not.
“We are not expecting it easy. We will give them every respect and we know we will have to come up with the answers home and away to get into the next round.”
McInnes has a near full-strength squad to pick from, with long-term injury victim Clark Robertson the only absentee from a pool of players that include new signings Scott Brown and Ashton Taylor.
The former is a goalkeeper brought in from Cheltenham Town and the latter a central defender from Tranmere Rovers, while Shay Logan has made last season’s loan move from Brentford permanent.
The only problem is the lack of attacking options as the Aberdeen manager has still to find a striker after Scott Vernon, Calvin Zola and Josh Magennis left last month.