Aberdeen stepped up their preparations for next season by announcing two new signings yesterday, including the return to the club of Ash Taylor.
The central defender, who has spent the last two years with Northampton Town, will be joined at Pittodrie by the Welsh international midfielder Ryan Hedges who is leaving Barnsley to move north.
The Dons finished the 2018-19 season in fourth place, their lowest standing in six years, but they still qualified for Europe.
Their aim is to reach the group stage of next season’s Europa League, according to chairman Stewart Milne, and the addition of Taylor and Hedges will offer manager Derek McInnes more options in his squad.
Taylor, 28, left Pittodrie after the 2017 Scottish Cup final, a game Aberdeen lost 2-1 to Celtic. He also played in the Betfred Cup final defeat by Celtic that season. He joined Northampton in English League One but suffered relegation in his first year there and spent last season playing in the bottom tier.
He rejoins the Dons on a two-year deal and has plenty of experience of playing in Europe for the club from his three seasons at Pittodrie between 2014 and 2017 during which time he made 126 competitive appearances, scoring ten goals.
Fellow Welshman Hedges has agreed a three-year deal and will join Aberdeen on 1 July. Hedges, 23, was out of contract with newly-promoted Barnsley, who had offered him a new deal but the midfielder opted for a new challenge in the Scottish Premiership.
Hedges, pictured inset, said: “I’m quite close with [Leicester goalkeeper] Danny Ward who came here [to Pittodrie] and he didn’t have a bad word to say. He said if this move ever came about I should take it with both hands – and I’m here.”
Hedges joined Barnsley from Swansea City in January 2017 and scored three goals in 59 appearances in all competitions.
Barnsley were promoted back to the Sky Bet Championship at the first attempt under German manager Daniel Stendel after finishing second in League One.
Milne, meanwhile, believes McInnes still has plenty to achieve with Aberdeen as he prepares to begin his seventh full campaign with the club. The Pittodrie chairman said: “There are some people that think he has hit a glass ceiling with this club and can’t take us any further.
“That’s not the case as Derek is convinced we have given ourselves a fantastic platform over his six years in charge and he wants to kick on from there.”
Milne added to the Press and Journal: “He still has the aspiration to take the team into the group stages of European football as that is one area where we haven’t quite achieved.”