Dean Campbell made his first start for Aberdeen against Rangers in a Scottish Cup quarter-final at Ibrox. Stepping into what can only be described as a hostile atmosphere in Govan, the 17-year old would be forgiven if he was slightly nervous ahead of the crucial clash.
It was huge vote of confidence from Derek McInnes who clearly trusts his young midfielder. He lasted 80 minutes on his full debut as the Dons cruised to an impressive 2-0 victory over Steven Gerrard’s side.
The youngster did not look out of place in Aberdeen’s midfield, instead he looked right at home next to club captain Graeme Shinnie. Still eligible to be a school kid, it was Campbell handing out the lessons to Rangers’ midfield.
The Dons’ young prodigy has had to wait for his chance at a first team start and he has grabbed it with both hands.
A mature performance
Campbell made his first team debut at Pittodrie in May 2017 against Celtic, just hours after sitting an English exam at his local high school. He would have to wait another year before playing again for the first team, helping the Dons to a 1-0 victory over Celtic last May.
He’s made sporadic appearances over the course of this season, but McInnes handed him his moment of glory in the Scottish Cup. From early on it was clear to see Campbell was ready for the big occasion.
He never gave the Gers midfield a minute to breathe. Constantly pressing and harassing them, the 17-year old forced his opponents into mistakes on several occasions. Added to that, Campbell was decent on the ball. He showed calmness and maturity beyond his years, with a few decent passes thrown in for good measure.
His final contribution was well received by the Aberdeen faithful. Ryan Kent was leading a Rangers breakaway, but in came Campbell, and hacked down the Gers winger. He went into the book, but the youngster had to do it to prevent a potential goalscoring opportunity for the opposition.
Shinnie deserves some plaudits for the youngster’s performance. He gave Campbell someone to look to for guidance and mentored the midfielder well. It was a true captain’s contribution from the Dons skipper.
Campbell is living every Aberdeen fan’s dream. To turn out for the club you love at such a young age is a great achievement. To play to the level Campbell did at Ibrox is an added bonus.
When the heat was on, the young midfielder was cool under pressure. Aberdeen may have found their next big star.