Leighton Clarkson: The Aberdeen debutant is the ideal signing and Billy Gilmour comparison

Jim Goodwin has spoken often about the types of characters and personalities he wants at Aberdeen, having taken a sledgehammer to last season’s squad.

Eleven have arrived so far, even more have departed.

The latest recruit was Leighton Clarkson, late on Friday night, on loan from Liverpool. Within 24 hours he had made a bombastic impression on his debut, scoring a screamer and putting in an assured performance in the middle of the park in a 4-1 win over St Mirren after being summoned from the bench early in the first half following Hayden Coulson’s nasty injury.

Dons fans will have exited Pittodrie with a spring in their step, Clarkson’s fierce long-range hit the topic of many a discussion. As fantastic as it was, it was just one facet of an excellent showing.

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There was something else which stood out. The way he was constantly communicating. His body language, commands and direction.

Anthony Stewart said he was “quite quiet” in the dressing room before the game. That wasn't taken on to the field. The 20-year-old was often seen speaking to more experienced team-mates, gesticulating both in and out of possession where colleagues should be moving or passing.

There was a moment at the beginning of the second half when he checked, pulled back into the middle of the park and stuck his arms up demanding the ball from the Dons captain. He even clapped at one point to get his attention.

Tempo setter

Leighton Clarkson impressed on his debut for Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Leighton Clarkson impressed on his debut for Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Leighton Clarkson impressed on his debut for Aberdeen. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

That directorial quality is one which was needed within the squad. Ylber Ramadani is a solid presence at the base who can keep it simple and do the gritty side of the game. Ross McCrorie and Dante Polvara can get about the pitch. Connor Barron is a progressive midfielder.

Clarkson is different. He, when more in tune with his new team-mates, has the capacity to be the tempo setter in the midfield. There is a real desire to get on the ball and direct the flow of the game. A favoured move is to shape as if he is going to to open up the game, moving the opposition one way but reversing a pass the other. He is adept at speeding up the game with a first-time pass to break the lines.

Watching him direct play against St Mirren, there were similarities to a certain Billy Gilmour. The way he takes the ball in confidently, no matter the area, protecting it, moving it, always with his head up. It is clear he has a constant picture evolving in his mind of the game and where team-mates and opposition players are. He is very rarely static, if he’s not on the ball, he is looking to support or trying to win it back.

Coming away from your debut with a goal, a chance created, 92 touches and an 88 per cent pass success rate, winning 75 per cent of tackles and recovering the ball six times is highly impressive for a midfielder. Even more so for one who is just 20 and only joined the team the night before.

Aberdeen have made some very shrewd moves in the transfer market but they had to be patient with Clarkson, waiting six weeks to be able to get him. Now they have, he could be the best of the lot.



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