Aberdeen's secret plan to spring a surprise on European opponents BK Hacken

Aberdeen’s European reputation preceded them throughout the halcyon days of the 1980s.

Aberdeen train ahead of Thursday's match against BK Hacken.
Aberdeen train ahead of Thursday's match against BK Hacken.

That period famously brought a European Cup Winners’ Cup – equivalent to the modern-day Europa League – and a European Super Cup to Pittodrie.

Names like Alex Ferguson, John Hewitt, Mark McGhee, Neil Simpson, Alex McLeish, Willie Miller, Jim Leighton and more rolled off tongues on training grounds across the Continent. Everybody knew the talent residing in the north east of Scotland.

The present day Aberdeen side is far more understated, which is just how manager Stephen Glass likes it. Partly by default, the new management and players at Cormack Park remain something of an unknown quantity to Thursday’s opponents in the Europa Conference League second qualifying round, BK Hacken.

Covid outbreaks in opposition camps forced the cancellation of friendlies against Cove Rangers and Reading this month. Swedish insight is therefore limited and Glass is hopeful that works to his team’s advantage.

“It came into the thinking. It was a bit of a by-product. We didn’t go anywhere to go and play a game for that reason,” he explained. “We could have because the local teams would have liked to have us for a home game.

“I felt, because we have a new group of players and a whole new staff, we might play in a certain way that the other team might not know. They can guess and they might be well-educated but they don’t know because they haven’t seen us.

“It is important because we have been able to watch their games. They have a mode of working that is working for them but we are a little bit unknown to them. It is important what we can do to influence the game from our side.”

The major disadvantage facing Aberdeen is their lack of competitive action, for Hacken are midway through the Swedish Allsvenskan campaign. They are also working under new management after Norwegian Per-Mathias Hogmo replaced the Swede Andreas Alm last month.

To date, Hogmo has presided over three successive league victories to guide his new club away from the relegation zone. Aberdeen would naturally prefer to have the momentum of meaningful matches ahead of an important European tie.

“Yes, as a group we haven’t played games as a team like they have recently, but what we have done is control how long we want to work for how long,” acknowledged Glass. “That is something we have managed to use to our advantage.

“Hacken played on Sunday away from home and had to travel and get home. You would rather be in the element of playing games but the margin of difference that can make can be overestimated, although I do think it is better to be playing games.”

Every Aberdeen player is fit and available for the first leg, with the exception of the suspended centre-back Declan Gallagher. “We have been very fortunate because very few boys have missed days of the training,” added the manager.

“The sports scientists and physios are happy with that and hopefully that continues as the games start and people start kicking you properly. That is an extra challenge. We have a full squad.”

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