As a teenager, Martin Boyle would sit star-struck in the Pittodrie dressing-room, an unknown part-time player with Montrose surrounded by a host of household names.
It’s an experience the Hibs forward will never forget and one, he insists, which helped him make the move into full-time football with Dundee and, now, at Easter Road where, coincidentally, he made his first team debut at the age of just 16 as Montrose were crushed 5-1 in the League Cup.
Tonight Boyle is obviously hoping for a vastly different outcome, confident Alan Stubbs’ side can cause a shock against the Premiership leaders, while conceding they face the toughest of tasks in facing a Dons side which has won its first eight league games.
But it will also bring back memories of his days in the Granite City and the favour done to him by ex-Aberdeen and Scotland boss Craig Brown.
He said: “Although I was born down here, I was raised up there. I was with Montrose and was also at college part-time in Aberdeen and the club arranged for me to train with them.
“Craig Brown was happy for me to do it so I used to go in to Pittodrie and train with the lads every day for a few months which helped me. I was 16 or 17, so training with Aberdeen’s first team on a full-time basis was really good. There were guys like Russell Anderson, Darren Mackie and Fraser Fyvie [now a team-mate at Hibs] there and a lot of the boys I trained with are still with Aberdeen.
“Aberdeen are a massive club and I have to admit I was a bit overawed at first, but it was a terrific experience for me at the time. They wanted me to play in a few games and I did against Dundee United, but I knew within myself I was not really getting there. Nevertheless I enjoyed it.”
Boyle’s own time at Aberdeen may now be in the dim and distant past, but he retains a link with the Granite City in that his girlfriend Rachael Small is captain of the Dons Ladies team and will be among the thousands travelling south to cheer on Derek McInnes’ team tonight.
He said: “She’ll be coming down with a lot of her friends who will be in the Aberdeen end but Rachael will be in our end, no doubt hoping Aberdeen win but also wanting to see me play well. Her own team are doing really well, just like the men’s side, and every now and again I get the chance to go along to watch her play.”
With or without Rachael’s support, 22-year-old Boyle firmly believes Hibs can pull off an upset, while accepting it will be a “massive test” in bidding to halt the Dons juggernaut, one which, he believes, could carry them to the Premiership title.
He said: “Whenever the draw was made, we were excited about it. Aberdeen are flying at the moment, a great tie to get and, I am sure, it will be a fantastic cup match.
“Aberdeen have started brilliantly and they are giving it a right good go. They challenged Celtic last year and want to take that one step further and if they keep playing the way they are then I don’t see why not.
“Obviously Aberdeen are a massive test for us, but these are the teams we’ll be playing when we win promotion and I feel we can more than match them. Aberdeen are a step up from playing Rangers, they’ve been outstanding and have notched it up another level this year.”
It may seem something of a paradox, but Boyle believes taking on Aberdeen will produce the sort of game which might just suit him and his team-mates in that they’ll be far more open than the opposition they find themselves playing on a weekly basis in the Championship when they are confronted with teams intent on defending and hoping to hit on the break.
He said: “The way Aberdeen are playing a lot of people will be writing us off, but these are the games you want to play in, we have a fit and strong squad and I think we can have a real go. It will be a right good game.”
Victory would also endear Stubbs’ players even more to their fans, Boyle and striker Jason Cummings having surprised supporters by joining them in a nearby pub following a home victory.
He insisted: “It was just one of those in-and-out things. We went in to meet someone, sign a few things and to have a bit of a laugh. I think the fans appreciated it – we got a good reaction. They come to watch us every week to give us their backing so it’s good to give a wee bit back when you can.”
• Boyle was talking at the launch of new Topps SPFL Match Attax football trading card game.