Derek McInnes determined to take Aberdeen into group stage

Derek McInnes is determined to see off the challenge of European unknowns Siroki Brijeg so Aberdeen can start mixing it with some of the continent's more glamorous opponents once again.

Aberdeen players train ahead of their Europa League tie against NK Siroki Brijeg. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Aberdeen players train ahead of their Europa League tie against NK Siroki Brijeg. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

The Pittodrie club’s manager turned down a lucrative move to English Championship side Sunderland last month in the belief that there was still more for him to achieve where he was.

Now having rebuilt Aberdeen’s reputation on the domestic front in recent years his immediate priority is to do something similar further afield by steering them to the Europa League group stages for the first time.

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The first step is to see off the challenge of the tricky, if unglamorous, side from Bosnia starting at Pittodrie tonight as Aberdeen attempt to make the third round of qualifying for a fourth successive season..

Not that McInnes has any intention of settling for that as he wants a return to the days when the last Scottish side to win a European trophy regularly faced some of the continent’s biggest clubs.

“We reiterated to the players that there is a lot of respect to be gained by getting amongst the better cubs in Europe,” said McInnes. pictured right.

“Clubs that when you get drawn against them people instantly know them and their tradition in European football.

“While we are not going to win the Europa League it’s not about us just playing a couple of rounds then getting knocked out.

“We want to get to the group stages and even in defeat against Kairat and Maribor in the last two years we felt we were worthy of going through.

“What I don’t want is us to be an unlucky story again this season so I want us to find a way to win those type of tight ties and get to the group stages.

“We want to get to that level but to do that we first have to deal with a good team and deal with that confidently by making sure we turn up in the two legs.

“I’ve always felt that just one good performance over the two legs is not good enough, we have to deliver in both games to progress.

“If we do get through then we know the next round will bring tougher opponents yet but I want us to mix it with the best and there are plenty of them in this competition.”

McInnes was still trying to add to his squad ahead of last night’s 11pm signing deadline for the tie after being frustrated with bids for Motherwell’s Louis Moult, Stevie May at Preston and the Celtic winger Gary Mackay-Steven.

Former Dons midfielder Fraser Fyvie has been training at Pittodrie after being released by Hibernian but the Pittodrie club’s manager insists that’s not with a view to signing him.

Recent additions Greg Stewart, Greg Tansey and Ryan Christie will all make European debuts for the club tonight, though, in a new look line up.

After all key players Ash Taylor, Ryan Jack, Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes all moved on during the summer but Shay Logan isn’t too worried about the shake-up.

On Tuesday the full-back signed an extended contract that will keep him at Pittodrie until at least the summer of 2020 and he’s convinced there is still enough quality at Aberdeen to continue the progress the club has shown since he joined from Brentford three years ago.

Logan said: “Every year the team changes one way or other. Three or four players leave, three of four come in. Don’t get me wrong, we are going to miss Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn’s contribution but we’ve got players in who will stamp their authority.

“We have had a good pre-
season, results have gone well and everyone is looking sharp, so we are in good stead for the season.

“We want to keep challenging for cups and run Celtic as close as we can for the league because they are the team which will be up there.

“They have the resources and a lot of good players. However we want to push them and see where that takes it and as for the Europa League, the group stages would be amazing and we have the team to get there.”

Striker Jayden Stockley will miss the first leg through suspension after picking up a red card in the defeat against Maribor last season.