Marley Watkins paved the way for Inverness Caledonian Thistle in Europe but he had moved on to a fresh challenge by the time the Highland club embarked on their Europa League qualifiers in 2015.
But the Welshman has timed things right this season, arriving on a short-term deal at Aberdeen, just as the Pittodrie side welcome Runavik for the start of this term’s bid to make it through to the competition’s group stages.
Signed until January, the Wales international attacker admits the opportunity to sample a new level of football was a major attraction.
He said: “I didn’t get the chance to play in Europe for Inverness because I left just after we won the Scottish Cup. I wanted to go back to England and prove myself down there, so that’s why I made that decision.
“Was I jealous? No, not at all. I was happy for the lads who were still at Inverness to get that chance. I didn’t have any regrets when I saw them playing in it because going to England is what I wanted to do. But it’s exciting now to finally get the opportunity to play European football. When Aberdeen came in for me, having Europe and the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup was a great incentive for me,” said the 29-year-old, who has spent the past few years at Barnsley, Norwich and Bristol City. “We had a team meeting about Runavik on Wednesday morning, we watched clips, looking at their strengths and their weaknesses. But I think the biggest thing is to just focus on ourselves, how we’re going to play and take it from there.”
Pitting his wits against European minnows has become the early season norm for Aberdeen manager McInnes, whose domestic exploits have given his side admittance to Europefor the seventh consecutive year but he will not take anything for granted tonight.
“We expect a tough match. Their biggest advantage over us is that this is their 18th game of the season – their season started back in May – whereas this is our fourth game, staggered. We’ve faced that in the past but we’re still trying to find some rhythm and have some injuries. We’ll try and put out the team that gives us the best chance of winning the game.”
Funso Ojo is suspended for the one-legged qualifier, while Craig Bryson has a calf injury. “Mikey [Devlin], Sam [Cosgrove] and Ryan [Edmundson] are out long term but big Andy Considine comes back into things and Scott [Mckenna] is okay.”
Niall McGinn, who had picked up a knock, could also feature. “He got a scan on Monday and thankfully it’s nothing sinister. It’s just a little tender so we’re hoping he will have a chance.”
But to progress, Aberdeen will have to adapt to the new format, the absence of the usual big night atmosphere and handle the expectation levels against a Faroese team they should be capable of ousting.
“I think there is an automatic feeling that if you have not heard of a team you should be beating them but if you start to look a bit deeper into any opponent you can see there is a calibre of player and performance within each and every team. Runavik are no different. They are a very good possession-based team, with plenty of good experience. They have a talisman striker in [Klaemint] Olsen and some good players throughout. But, every year we have been favourites against teams of Latvians, Georgians, whatever, and we have dealt with those games pretty well. We hope that continues.”
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