No wonder the Pittodrie club were quick to express their satisfaction at the sum they were ordered to pay Hamilton Accies at a tribunal earlier this season. The precise figure has never been released but he’s still considered one of the bargains of recent times.
Few expected Ferguson to settle quite so quickly or establish himself so firmly in manager Derek McInnes’ plans. Ferguson returns to Hampden – scene of his winning header against Rangers in October’s Betfred Cup semi-final – this weekend, when Aberdeen face Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final. McInnes has no need to worry about Ferguson’s temperament for such a high-octane occasion.
The 19-year-old midfielder has already answered any doubts on that front. In only his second appearance for the club he struck an overhead kick to draw Aberdeen level with Burnley in a televised Europa League qualifier.
McInnes recalled how quickly Ferguson impressed his new team-mates. On tour in Ireland last summer, just days after Ferguson had joined up with the squad, goalkeeper Joe Lewis turned to McInnes and said: “I really like him”.
“First impressions are important,” said the manager. “He was coming into a successful squad with a lot of good players and he would have been thinking about that on the first day. He just got on with it and he’s been getting on with it ever since.
“Lewis got the players’ approval right away which is important because there is a culture here about how we work, how we operate and go about our gym work so we can become stronger and quicker. Lewis got that right away.
“He has had a really strong first season, which has been recognised, and it’s now about dealing with expectation. For me, Lewis is a boy who doesn’t get fazed by anything. He is so laid back. He deals with everything in his stride.
“The potential is enormous because while I’ve played him in different positions, I see him as someone who can score 15, 16, 17 goals from midfield every season. He’s a good finisher, good in the air and has great energy. He is capable of even more and that’s the exciting part of it.”
McInnes’ own first impressions date back to watching Ferguson play against Aberdeen youth sides for Hamilton. He remembers not being able to work out whether he was right or left-footed, which is unusual these days. “That probably says a lot about me right enough!” he added.
There was no doubting his quality even if McInnes was initially unaware of the player’s notable ancestry as son of ex-Rangers, Hearts and Sunderland midfielder Derek Ferguson and nephew of Barry, the Aberdeen manager’s former Ibrox team-mate.
“I quickly worked out who he was when I looked down the team-sheet and it dawned on me he was Derek’s boy,” said McInnes. “His mum and dad are a brilliant influence on him. They couldn’t be more pleased the way things have gone for him up here. They have been huge supporters of Lewis.”
There’s ample evidence of this background now but one of the principal clues is Ferguson’s ferocious and very familiar will to win – which sometimes surfaces as anger.
“Although I didn’t know Lewis, I thought I did and I thought I knew what I was getting,” he said. “I watched him playing for Hamilton’s youth teams against my youth teams at times and he always left a wee impression.
“I liked his narkiness at times as well, that disappointment and rage when his team didn’t win. I liked this confidence and strength, as well as all the technical stuff on his left and right foot.
“The way he runs, heads, tackles and kicks. Everything he does seems natural,” added McInnes.
“When we signed him, you never know how people will deal with it. It’s quite a big thing for Lewis to come away from his family, he moved into a flat up here and had to deal with that.
“But from the first day, we did a testing and he was right up there, and I have a fit team. He looked like a boy who was ready to play, ready to show his team-mates what he was about. It looked as if he had been preparing for that first day.”