Aberdeen have welcomed back their trio who were KO’d by Covid and Derek McInnes admits he is delighted to see them return – for their ‘carry-on’ as well as their ability.
Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan are available for Saturday’s league clash with St Mirren after being sidelined as close contacts of players who tested positive for Coronavirus while on Scotland U21 duty a fortnight ago.
Their team-mate Ross McCrorie was one of those who tested positive and while he is not yet able to play, he too is back in training and, according to McInnes, all three have lifted the mood in the Pittodrie camp after a difficult week that saw them lose at Ibrox and draw at Hamilton, before crashing out of the Betfred Cup against Saints.
McInnes said: “Ferguson and McLennan come back in which is great for us.
“McCrorie is back in the building now, doing his work. He’s got return to play protocols to get through but just getting him in the building was great.
“Ferguson, McCrorie and Connor are very popular boys among that age group. They’re very vocal and while they’re very professional and very important, they can also be full of carry on, which is important.
“They are popular with their team-mates, so we’ve missed them and to get them all back in the building this week has been good.”
The Aberdeen boss admitted the loss of Ferguson and McCrorie from his engine room has been keenly felt over the past three games and insisted the duo and McLennan have been frustrated during their period of isolation.
He added: “They’ve had to sit and kick their heels really. Lewis and Connor had that added frustration of the negative tests and not being able to train and play.
“They’ve made do of a bad situation, a tough situation, by getting the treadmills in and doing their work. The sports scientists have kept in touch with them and spoke to them throughout that. They’re training to play and getting in amongst their team-mates again. It’s good that they’re out of that and can concentrate on what they’re good at.
“I know the importance of Ferguson and McCrorie to my team. Ferguson has done it now for two-and-a-half seasons. He’s been a mainstay and my go to guy all the time. A guy I’ve trusted from a young age.
“He’s felt absolutely fine and has had to sit back and had a real dose of frustration that he’s not been able to do what he normally does.
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“He’s a first pick for me, he plays every game. He’s such an important player. Connor is similar. He’s very disappointed. Both lads have missed their football, we’ve missed them, and it’s great to get them back in.
“There’s that competitiveness and willingness to win in them.
“McCrorie has shown that in his spell with us as well. It’s unusual to have so many out in the same area, with Dylan McGeouch as well. Dylan’s a good competitor. He plays the game in a different way but the three of them being out at the same time has not been needed.”
The Dons boss is adamant his side is desperate to atone for last week’s cup defeat in Paisley and he’s certainly looking for a much improved performance.
“We got exactly what we deserved, although it was a mistake in the end,” he said. “We didn’t deserve to go through the tie.
“We were outplayed, particularly in the first half. Outworked and everything else. St Mirren were the better team.
“So off the back of a disappointing result like that, you just want to play the next game as quickly as possible. The fact that we need to go back down there again, we know what to expect.
“St Mirren are probably not going to change too much. We need to try to do better and implement what we want to do in the game. We had to change our shape during the game, which I’ve been reluctant to do because our shape has been good this year, but we did that to play against their shape.
“So what we want to do is be the team we’ve been for the majority of the season so far. If we can do that, then we give ourselves a far better chance of winning.
“We have a chance to go level with Celtic on Saturday and to stay third in the league, but to do that we are going to have to be vastly improved from last week and do so much better than we did.”