Ryan McLaughlin has only been at Aberdeen for a few days but Liverpool’s on-loan full-back has already detected similarities between the clubs that go deeper than just a shared passion for all-red playing kits.
The defender made his Dons debut in Tuesday’s hard-fought 1-0 win against Hamilton Accies which moved the Pittodrie side five points clear of Celtic at the top of the Premiership table.
Every team will see Aberdeen as one of their biggest games, just like at LiverpoolRyan McLaughlin
That came just three days after watching from the substitutes’ bench as Aberdeen defeated the defending champions and means Derek McInnes’ side head for Tynecastle on Sunday seeking an eighth straight league win.
McLaughlin is impressed by that run, but far from surprised by the intensity of Hamilton’s efforts in trying to halt it just days after their own 4-1 hammering at Perth as it’s a scenario that was all-too-familiar at Anfield.
The Northern Ireland international saw how his parent club were used to opponents raising their game and believes the Dons have to cope with the same situation now.
“Every team in the SPL will see facing Aberdeen as one of their biggest games, just like it is at Liverpool,” he said.
“They’re going to be coming out and giving everything and you’re sort of used to that because you’re one of the better teams, but that means opposing sides usually come and perform better than normal against teams like us.
“We seem to be getting the result. We just need to keep it up. It was a very good result against Celtic but the win against Hamilton was equally important because the momentum is still going for Sunday’s game against Hearts.
“We’ve had a great start and all the lads are confident in each other’s ability and there’s a great team spirit about the place, but we know not to get ahead of ourselves because there’s a lot of competition and Celtic can still come back.”
McLaughlin’s main motivation for accepting an initial four-month loan was to get some first-team football to increase his chances of making it into Michael O’Neill’s squad for Euro 2016 if, as expected, Northern Ireland successfully qualify for the finals in France.
They need just two points from their final two group games next month to make it to a first major championship since the 1986 World Cup and fellow team-mates for country, and now club, Danny Ward and Niall McGinn helped smooth the way.
However, it was former Scotland star and current Liverpool coach Gary McAllister’s enthusiasm that proved crucial to pushing through a deal that could yet be extended until the end of the season.
“I’ve been told a lot about the SPL from Gary McAllister at Liverpool and he speaks very highly of it and Liverpool were very happy for me to come to Aberdeen and play in the top tier,” McLaughlin said.
“Gary likes it as a league for young players and he recommends it. I know Niall McGinn and Danny Ward and I’ve got to know the rest of the boys since I came up to Aberdeen, so I feel as if I’ve settled-in quite quickly.
“Danny and Niall were talking to me about how Aberdeen is a great club with a lot of history. They told me I’d love it here and, as soon as I heard they were interested in taking me on loan, I was up here the next day.”
Of course, Ward has already excelled since also arriving on loan from Liverpool, with the imposing Wales squad member only conceding a single goal from open play in the league this season. He was also a standout performer in Aberdeen’s Europa League campaign. That sort of form is no surprise to McLaughlin, who knows first hand just how highly the keeper is rated by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and the rest of the coaching staff at Anfield.
“Because I’ve played with him for about three years at Liverpool, I know how good he is in terms of making saves and he’s good with the ball at his feet as well,” said McLaughlin.
“He’s a big presence and he fills the goal and commands his area well. He’s a very good keeper and a lot of the lads at Liverpool were saying how good he was in the Europa League ties.
“Everybody’s keeping an eye on him down there and Danny signed a five-year contract before he came up here which shows how much they think of him and, if he keeps putting in good performances at Aberdeen, there’s no reason why he can’t make it at Anfield.”
McLaughlin’s performance against Hamilton leaves McInnes with a pleasant selection headache as to whether to stick with him or bring back Shay Logan for the trip to Tynecastle. The manager’s options for that game will become clearer after today when Jonny Hayes has his appeal heard against the red card issued by referee Craig Thomson against Celtic last weekend.