Zak Vyner | Red Matchday Feature
Not too many Aberdeen careers have started without the player concerned setting foot in Scotland but when the Dons secured 22 year old Zak Vyner on a season long loan from Bristol City earlier this month, his first port of call was Birmingham Airport and onward to Croatia to take his place in Aberdeen’s matchday squad for the game against HNK Rijeka.
“It was an unusual first week and a very tiring one! I went all over Europe and most of the United Kingdom by the end of it! But I have now got my feet on the ground and have enjoyed training with the guys over the last couple of weeks.
“The trip to Croatia was pretty hectic. I signed all the paperwork in Bristol and then the club told me to get myself up to Birmingham as I had a flight out to Croatia first thing in the morning. I was up about four in the morning and then left Birmingham Airport on a flight at 6am to Brussels. I got a transfer there and flew on to Zagreb and then had a couple of hours drive from Zagreb to the team hotel just outside Rijeka. I met the lads and all the staff and was on the bench for the game.
“I got there about four hours before kick-off, met my team mates an hour later, after I had a little sleep. I hope I managed to get everyone’s names right! I know the manager appreciated the effort I made to get over for the game. When I spoke to him, he knew how much of a tough ask it was but I wanted to show him how much I was up for it, how I much I want to be here, how much I buy into his plans with his team and how keen I am to make my stay here a successful one.”
The right sided defender, who can play in a variety of positions, has made 13 appearances for The Robins and was on loan at Rotherham United last season where he came across a former Don, one of many who gave him some advice on this season’s move north.
“Last season, I was on loan at Rotherham United. Although we landed up getting relegated form the Championship, it was a great experience for me to spend the whole season there. We played Everton and Manchester City in the cup. There were obviously a lot of tough games, but it was a massive learning curve and I took a lot out of last year.
“It may sound weird but even getting relegated was a massive education for me and for all the lads who were in that team. I wish them all the best. I loved my time there, it was a great place and I really hope they get promoted this season and get back to where they deserve to be.
“South Yorkshire is a really big footballing area and the games against Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United were huge. They are the games you want to be involved in and we actually did quite well in those games.
“I played alongside Clark Robertson last season and he messaged me before I came up. He could not have been happier about the move and again told me how much I would like the place. He told me to go and smash it. Clark is a good player and I think he will go on to big things in England.
“The other person I spoke to was Scotty Murray. Scott is a legend at Bristol and now the kitman at Ashton Gate as well as a club ambassador. As he is from the north-east of Scotland, he is also a big Aberdeen fan. When I told him, he was absolutely buzzing! He said we would be coming up for a game. He told me all about the place and the city and again was really complimentary.
“All the lads have made me feel very welcome and they have all been great with me. I am rooming with Greg Leigh who is a very good guy and I think I’ve settled very quickly.
“After going out to Croatia, we then came back to Scotland and had one training session before travelling down to Paisley for the game against St Mirren on the Sunday. The weather that afternoon was a bit of a welcome to Scottish football as well!
“Obviously my debut did not go as well as I would have liked. I thought we started that game slowly, but we grew into it. The way we started the second half was how we should have started the first. It was annoying to go 1-0 down and they then had a game plan to sit back and force us to break them down which we could not do. It highlights how important the first goal is, particularly in away matches.
“It was my first competitive game of the season. I was involved in all the pre-season games with Bristol City though. We flew out to Florida and played a couple of games out there. We actually faced Derby County who I know have a few ex-Aberdeen players now. I actually played against Max Lowe in the second game between the sides, as the first game was abandoned due to the weather. We also came up against a domestic team.
“But the St Mirren game was my first proper outing of the season. I played a couple of 90 minutes in pre-season but a game is completely different. When you have a game that means something, it is just different. Playing in the St Mirren game can only do me good.”
It’s been a move from one end of the UK to the other for Zak who was born in the south-east of England.
“I was born in London and then moved to Bath when I was 9 and around that time I signed for Bristol City. I have been with them all the way through. I went on loan when I was 18 or 19 to Accrington Stanley for six months. I then went back to Bristol City and stayed with them for the first part of the next season before going on loan to Plymouth. That was quite a successful spell there. Derek Adams was the manager and he messaged me before I came up to Aberdeen and congratulated me on the move and said it was a great place and I would enjoy it. He was amazing with me and was a great manager.
“I learnt a lot at the all the clubs I’ve been at so far and have played different roles. I know a lot of players have a favourite position, but for me, I will play in either central defence or at right-back, wherever the manager wants me to play. I will quite happily play centre-back one week and right-back the next.
“I came through the youth set up at Bristol playing as a central defender, and as many defenders who play that position, you then need to go to left-back or right-back to get your first taste of first team football. I got into the team as a right-back and that is the position that I stuck with for a while. But at Plymouth, I had a successful time at centre-half and started to enjoy that and then last season at Rotherham, I moved back over to right-back. I have mixed and matched and enjoy both.
“There’s good competition for places here when everyone is fit and available. You can’t have a decent season without having a bit of healthy competition in your squad. I love the competition. As a player you need to have someone to push you because if it was plain sailing and you were in a comfort zone all the time, you would not get better. I also need Shay and the other experienced lads here to teach me little things to help me improve my game. I will be a sponge and try and take on as much information as possible.
“You need to have a squad where there are options for the manager and where you have all the players in the squad fighting it out in training during the week. You need that for a team to be successful.
“I want to be successful. I want to get this club as high as we can in the league and want us to push for the Scottish Cup and the League Cup. I want to win every game. You do not come up here with the aim of finishing third or fourth. You want to push for everything and do as well as you can.”