On Friday night 16-year-old Dean Campbell entered the history books becoming the first Performance School pupil to make his competitive debut as well as being the youngest ever player to don the Aberdeen jersey.
Campbell is in fourth-year of Hazlehead Academy, one of seven Performance Schools across Scotland aiming to deliver an extensive, challenging programme for the country’s most talented young footballers.
He sat his National 5 English exam on Friday morning along with thousands of other teenagers across the country but had a little more pressure on his shoulders knowing he was in the squad for his boyhood team that night.
Having supported Aberdeen since he was four, Dean’s mood ahead of his exam was boosted when his Dad said Derek McInnes was requiring his services at Pittodrie.
Campbell said: “I couldn’t believe it when my Dad said I was in the squad.
“The English exam was at 9am on the Friday so I went home about 12 and then got ready for the game which was a bit surreal.
“I tried not to think too much about the game during the exam but it was definitely a bit of a distraction.
“When I went down to Pittodrie on the Friday night I saw my name on a shirt in the dressing room with the number 47 and I was just stunned.
“The manager said I was on the bench in the team talk and I just tried to take everything in during the warm-up.”
Celtic led the match 3-0 but as Aberdeen began their comeback and pulled a goal back, Campbell was given the call.
“We were pushing for an equaliser and I didn’t think I’d get on but the manager told me to get ready and I had a lot of nerves but I really enjoyed the experience,” the Scotland Under-16 midfielder said.
“I hadn’t been involved in the first team much before so I think I was a bit fortunate with a few injuries.
“It’s unbelievable to be the youngest person to have ever played for Aberdeen. To go and play with guys who I have watched from the stands as a fan was a dream come true.”
Campbell now has ambitions of making more appearances for Aberdeen and is hopeful of leaving school after his exams to sign full-time with the club and continue his development.
Reflecting on his time as a Performance School pupil, he said: “It’s improved me massively every day.
“It’s given me a chance to play against the best players and I think I’ve become more competitive and eager to do well.
“The class work is very similar to my mates but the difference is we miss some classes to do football sessions and then have extra lessons which teachers attend to help us catch up on our work.
“It’s been a brilliant experience and will hopefully hold me in good stead in the future.”
Stuart Glennie, Performance School Coach for Hazlehead Academy, has overseen Campbell’s development and saw his Aberdeen debut as just reward.
Glennie said: “His attitude and application both on the training field and in the classroom has been excellent during his time at Hazlehead.
“Everyone at Hazlehead Academy is delighted for Dean, but he is well aware that this is only a small step towards achieving the success he is capable of.”