By Alison McConnell
For Leighton Clarkson, part of the pull of heading back to Aberdeen on a permanent contract this summer was the prospect of European football.
Barry Robson’s side head to Gothenburg this Thursday to take on BK Hacken as they look to secure access to the group stages of the Europa League.
“You want to be playing in the best competitions against the best players, so having European football was a part of me coming back,” said the midfielder who netted in Friday night’s Viaplay League Cup win over Stirling Albion.
“It wasn’t the only factor but it was one of them.
“Playing in Europe was one of my aims as a footballer, I played a part in us getting here so it maybe would have been a bit of a wrench not to be involved.
“I knew I played some of my best football at the back end of last season.
“This is a team I wanted to be involved in and be part of.”
At 21, the significance of Aberdeen playing in Gothenburg might well have passed the former Liverpool academy graduate by.
However, the memory of last season’s celebrations as the European Cup Winners’ side celebrated their 40th anniversary left its impression on the midfielder.
“We all know about the club’s history in Gothenburg,” he said.
“Against Hibs last year there was a celebration of it and the former players came into the training ground.
“There was the gifting of the freedom of the city at Pittodrie too, so we all know about it.
“That was the club’s greatest night so hopefully we can go back there and win.”
“We will be watching Hacken this week, looking at their tactics and them as individuals.
“I know the staff here have been working on them already so we will have all the information we need.”
Clarkson’s senior debut came for Liverpool against FC Midtjylland with the player appreciating the different dimension that European football can offer a domestic season.
Aberdeen would be guaranteed a place in the Conference League if they were to go against the Swedes over the two legged play-off but it is the Europa League group stages where they want to be this season.
“I was on the bench a few times in the Champions League and made my debut there against Midtjylland, which was a surreal experience, so hopefully I can bring that experience to help Aberdeen,” said Clarkson.
“We will have a look at it, see what we need to work on and try to find a way to hurt them.
“Are we ready for European football? I’d say so.
“It’s something a lot of us are going to experience for the first time but we will give it our all.
“It’s different football, different talents and coaches.
“Teams play a different way so we have to find ways to win games at this level.”