Ryan Duncan uses Ibrahim Sadiq experience to improve for Aberdeen and Scotland Under-21s

Ryan Duncan, right, battles for possession during a Scotland Under-21 training session.Ryan Duncan, right, battles for possession during a Scotland Under-21 training session.
Ryan Duncan, right, battles for possession during a Scotland Under-21 training session.
As far as Ryan Duncan is concerned, it is all about putting himself in the right situation and then figuring out how to deal with it.

That was the case when he earned his breakthrough into the Aberdeen first team, when he came up against an opponent like Ibrahim Sadiq in European duty this term and now, as he charges into a challenging month of international under-21 Euro championships qualifiers and the then returns to club business where he and his colleagues face some daunting matches in Conference League group action while also trying to turnaround domestic fortunes by seeking out their first Premiership win of the fledgling campaign.

All exciting prospects for the 19-year-old, but each experience also counts as on-the-job training for the Pittodrie midfielder, who has also been utilised as a wing-back on a few occasions already this season, including against BK Hacken. That was when he had to try to contain the talented Sadiq, before the Ghana winger’s multi-million pound deadline-day switch to AZ Alkmaar.

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"He was very good,” stated Duncan, who is part of the Scotland Under-21 squad preparing themselves for their European Championship qualifier against Spain.. “But that is the standard you are going to be coming up against at this level. He was very hard to play against. It was a real learning curve for me to play against someone like him. He's the best player I have played against. But it was a great experience to play against him and very tough as well.”

With more than a season under his belt in the Premiership, there are differences between the domestic game and the threat posed at European club level and on the international stage. But, having identified them the young Scot is working hard to address them as he eyes up even more career evolution.

"It was the little things I picked up like the way some of these players read the game and the way they think one or two steps ahead of you,” continued Duncan. “You have to learn how to think ahead of them. Even things like communication too. A lot of young players, including me, maybe don't communicate as much as older players do. But, these are the positions you want to be in. You want to be challenging yourself against the best players in Europe.

"So Spain on Monday and then Eintracht Frankfurt [one of the Dons’ Conference League rivals] is very exciting for me. They are obviously two very big games. European and international games are very similar. They are a lot more tactical and there is a lot of learning to do. But, it's only going to stand everyone at the club and in the team in good stead.”

First he has to focus on the opening group qualifier for the 2025 under-21 European Championships and in the heat of Jaen, it will be tough against the 2023 runners-up. But whether for country or for club, the rewards for being a quick study are evident. "You can only learn so much being on the bench and especially as a young player, you do need to play games. I've been very happy because I have played a lot last season and this season too. So to play in these matches is great for me.”