Cap­tain Jack reck­ons armband can be golden ticket to Stra­chan’s squad

Aberdeen mid­fielder grow­ing into role as leader and wants to make break­through at in­ter­na­tional level


EING awarded the hon­our of the cap­taincy at your home­town club at the ten­der age of 23 is al­ways likely to mark the start of a steep learn­ing curve. There are the key ques­tions of how to win the re­spect of older, more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, how best to have your voice heard and ac­knowl­edged and the most ef­fec­tive way to serve as a buf­fer be­tween man­age­ment team and dress­ing room both in good times and bad.

As Ryan Jack has dis­cov­ered at Aberdeen since tak­ing over the armband last sum­mer in the wake of Rus­sell An­der­son’s re­tire­ment, though, true ac­cep­tance in the role can hinge on the ex­e­cu­tion of one very par­tic­u­lar task. Nail it down and the act of con­vinc­ing your men to fall into line be­hind you be­comes all the more straight­for­ward. “The strangest thing is hav­ing to ar­range all the tick­ets for ev­ery­one’s fam­i­lies,” re­vealed Jack as he re­turns to con­tention for a start­ing place fol­low­ing six weeks out with ham­string trou­ble.

“I have to hand them out to all the boys be­fore games, so I feel like I’m work­ing in the ticket of­fice.

“All my fam­ily come to ev­ery home game and I usu­ally need be­tween five and 10 at least. Jonny Hayes is the one that is al­ways ask­ing for ex­tras. He is from Ire­land, so I don’t know why he needs 20 tick­ets for ev­ery home game.

“When you first get the cap­taincy, you do won­der what is in­volved with the role, but the man­ager has helped me through that.

“Rus­sell is still part of the club, too, and I see him ev­ery day. He has been great with me and has told me what I need to sort out.”

There have, all the same, been some test­ing mo­ments for Jack over the course of the cam­paign. Fol­low­ing a blis­ter­ing start to the sea­son which de­liv­ered eight straight vic­to­ries, Aberdeen hit a slump be­tween Septem­ber and Novem­ber that brought just one win from eight games in all com­pe­ti­tions. A 5-1 home de­feat at the hands of St John­stone in Oc­to­ber was per­haps the low­est point of that quite abysmal spell. As the Perth side pre­pare to re­turn to Pit­to­drie this af­ter­noon, Jack has rea­son to re­call the lengths he went to in the hope of restor­ing morale dur­ing that dif­fi­cult time.

He has grown up this term. He un­der­stands the pres­sures of re­spon­si­bil­ity and gives the im­pres­sion he is happy to take that upon his shoul­ders as McInnes’s side, now seven points be­hind Celtic at the head of the Lad­brokes Premier­ship, en­deav­our to keep their ti­tle chal­lenge alive.

“If any­one has an is­sue they want to bring up, I am there for them,” he said.

“If there is some­thing that needs to be dis­cussed in the chang­ing room, we dis­cuss it. I have never had this re­spon­si­bil­ity be­fore, but you learn as you go along.

“It also helps that we have some se­nior play­ers at the club who have had good ex­pe­ri­ences through­out their ca­reer. We sat down as a group af­ter that visit of St John­stone and we ac­knowl­edged that it wasn’t good enough. I think the re­sponse since that de­feat has been great.

“I have en­joyed ev­ery minute of be­ing cap­tain this sea­son.

“At the start, we went on a great run by win­ning eight games on the bounce. We then had a sticky spell where ev­ery­body had their opin­ions and said what they had to say. We have a great dress­ing room with a good few lead­ers. We got through it and we have just been on an­other great run re­cently.”

That, of course, ended last time out with a 3-1 loss to Ca­ley This­tle.

Hav­ing come this far, it goes with­out say­ing that vic­tory this af­ter­noon is ab­so­lutely cru­cial.

For Jack, he has the added in­cen­tive of try­ing to catch the eye of the na­tional coach, Gor­don Stra­chan, as he pre­pares to run the rule over pretty much ev­ery player at his dis­posal for the up­com­ing World Cup cam­paign when nam­ing two sep­a­rate squads for the ap­proach­ing friendly matches with the Czech Re­pub­lic and Den­mark.

“I have been out for a while and Scot­land have a con­sis­tent squad that has been do­ing well,” said Jack. “If you have any sort of am­bi­tion, though, you want to play for your coun­try.

“This sea­son has been frus­trat­ing be­cause of the in­juries, but I want to do as well as I can for the rest of the cam­paign. There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion in the cen­tre of mid­field with Scot­land. It is pos­si­bly the strong­est area of the team. We have cen­tral mid­field­ers play­ing in the English Premier League who some­times can’t get in the squad.

“I’m not stupid. I re­alise there are a lot of good play­ers go­ing for that po­si­tion. If I have a chance, I need to be play­ing at the high­est point of my game and play­ing well ev­ery week.”

Pic­ture: SNS

LEADER OF MEN: Ryan Jack, right, back in train­ing with Aberdeen team-mates Jonny Hayes and Willo Flood.

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