I’d like to start by saying that you are, without doubt, one of the most gifted players to have come through Aberdeen’s youth system. As the second youngest ever player to play for the Dons, and the youngest ever goalscorer in a Scottish Premier League game, it would be fair to say you have talent beyond many other SPL players of your age. Over time, your performances have improved and bigger teams (notably Manchester City and Fulham) have taken note.
However, your recent decision to reject an offer of a new improved contract at your boyhood club is, in my opinion, short sighted and naive.
At just 18-years-old, you have made only 50 appearances for for Aberdeen since your first game in 2009. The club has nurtured you into the player you are now and has not yet received as high a return from their investment as they might have hoped for. With the game time you have been given at Aberdeen, you have become the captain of the Scotland youth team. Stay a little longer and you may find yourself on the fringes of the full squad.
Let me be clear – I am not suggesting that you remain and Aberdeen forever, but it is fair to say your Aberdeen career has only just begun and that a move away would be premature.
You have the talent and the potential to fulfill your dream of playing in the English Premier League, but I think you are forgetting that time is on your side. To stay beyond the end of your current contract, which ends in December, would allow yourself the chance to play regular first-team football with the club that has invested so much in you. With game time, you will become stronger and quicker: a better player than you are now. A move now to an EPL team is, frankly, likely to result in you sitting on the bench or featuring for the reserve team to keep up your match fitness. If you continued to ply your trade at Aberdeen for another couple of years, you would leave with the blessing of all connected to the club and be in a position to better serve your new team. However, if you were to leave in December, your Aberdeen chapter would feel half finished.
Speaking of premature moves, think back your former team mate Chris Maguire. At the end of last season, aged 21, he rejected a new contract at the club that had nurtured him and decided instead on a move to Championship side Derby County. To date, the striker has made a total of eight appearances for his new club (his last showing was in November) and has fallen down the pecking order. The grass is not always greener on the other side, it seems.
Another close-to-home example is former Dons stalwart Russell Anderson. After working his way through the ranks at Aberdeen, the defender was named club captain and went on to win 11 Scotland caps. Despite stating he would stay at Aberdeen for the rest of his playing career, he left in 2007 after 280 appearances to join Sunderland. He made just one appearance for the EPL club, was loaned to Plymouth Argyle and Burnley, then eventually joined Derby County where he made just 34 appearances. Of course, injuries blighted his time in England, but last month, he became your team mate when he rejoined his boyhood club.
I do understand your desire to improve yourself as a footballer. Training with and learning from players who are better than you helps to achieve this, as does playing against quality opposition. Not to mention the wages offered by an EPL team will be far greater than at Aberdeen (although I gather this was never an issue in your case).
The advice of your current manager, Craig Brown, which I can only echo, is: “If I were his agent, I would say wait a little while longer. But young lads nowadays want to be superstars early.” In other words, remember that you are young and still have a lot to learn. Where better to do that than at the club that has helped bring you this far?
Please, for yourself and Aberdeen FC, would you at least consider staying another couple of years?