RYAN Jack is convinced Aberdeen possess the grit, skill, determination and depth of squad to cope with the pressure of being the team everyone else in the Premiership is desperate to defeat.
The Dons captain leads his team to Tynecastle this afternoon looking for an eighth straight win to continue the Pittodrie club’s best start to any season in their history.
Achieving that would move them nine points clear of Hearts and maintain at least a five- point advantage over Celtic regardless of their result at home to Dundee.
No one connected with Aberdeen will even mention the prospect of finishing the season in a similar position but in the last few days even the bookmakers have significantly reduced the odds of them actually winning the title.
That’s on the back of last weekend’s rare victory against the defending champions and, perhaps just as significantly, Tuesday’s single- goal defeat of Hamilton Accies when it took an Adam Rooney penalty allied to some desperate defending late in the game to get the better of a team thumped 4-1 at Perth just a few days before.
As far as Jack is concerned, that result against the less glamorous hoops proved their opponents are more motivated than ever when it comes to attempting to defeat Aberdeen nowadays.
However the 23-year-old, who extended his contract with the club earlier this year, believes they are more than capable of disappointing those expecting the Dons challenge to falter.
“As players you have to notice that we are a bigger scalp because of the start we have had this season,” he said. “A lot of sides will look at Aberdeen and want to put us in our place and maybe slap us down a bit.
“Every game that we do play we know that teams are maybe going to be trying that bit extra to be the first one to beat us but we have just won seven on the bounce, the confidence is high and the boys have been flying.
“I think a lot of questions would have been asked of us at half-time last week being one down to Celtic after not being able to beat them last season.
“It shows the character and mentality that we have got that we answered them by winning with ten men. Then we managed to beat Hamilton on the back of that Celtic win and while it wasn’t the best of performances we got the points.
“We know ourselves that there would have been a lot of people hoping that we would have slipped up against Hamilton.
“They are looking for us to drop points but we answered that challenge again and now the focus is keeping that going against Hearts.”
A major factor in Jack’s reasoning that they can do exactly that is the depth of squad manager Derek McInnes has assembled, as was evident again in midweek.
Shay Logan, Barry Robson, Peter Pawlett, David Goodwillie and last weekend’s match winner against Celtic, Paul Quinn, could only make the bench for the Hamilton game.
Aberdeen even head to Tynecastle having conceded just one goal from open play in the league, though last season’s captain, central defender Mark Reynolds, has been out since July after dislocating a shoulder in a Europa League qualifier.
He’s due back next month while Jonny Hayes sits out the matches against Hearts today and the League Cup tie at Easter Road on Wednesday after losing his appeal against the straight red card issued in the Celtic match.
Jack has already been benched himself this season which is why he feels confident of continued success regardless of who starts for Aberdeen, and he added: “We definitely feel we can win every game when you look at our starting eleven and the quality of players that are on the bench.
“It gives everybody good confidence that we can keep the run going as we all have belief in each other. The squad is so strong that we go in convinced we can get the three points.
“We have got that depth of squad that if there are injuries or if the manager feels he does need to change things then it is not going to weaken the team in any way.”
Jack certainly hopes that is the case as they approach what looks like being Aberdeen’s toughest away game of the season so far, given they have managed just one win in their past 11 league visits to Tynecastle.
However the Dons skipper is certain Hearts will remain a major threat to the Dons whatever happens today as he said: “You can see they are a big club with sell-out crowds at every match, and having them back in the top flight can only be good for the Scottish game.
“That’s why I always thought they would be up in the top two or three for most of the season with the ability they have there.”