The enduring friendship between Lewis Ferguson and Ross McCrorie started eight years ago when they were part of the Rangers youth system.

Despite Ferguson’s departure to Hamilton, it has continued through the Scotland Under-21 set-up and, today, into Aberdeen’s first team.

And the former Accies midfielder accepts they will be centre stage when Celtic visit Pittodrie this afternoon with the aim of dominating the crucial area of the pitch and “getting in the faces” of Scott Brown and Callum McGregor, Celtic’s beating heart.

“I’ve enjoyed playing alongside [McCrorire],” 21-year-old Ferguson reveals. “We have formed a good partnership, which we do with the Scotland under-21s. We each offer different things to the team. We’re both hard-working, humble boys and we’ll always put in 100 per cent. I enjoy playing with Ross and I think he feels the same about me.

“We’ve known each other for a long time. We were at Rangers together as kids and we’ve been together in the Scotland Under-21 squad for the past year or so. We were pally as boys so it wasn’t hard to strike up a partnership with somebody you know so well.

“It makes it easier because when somebody comes into the team you don’t really know, you sometimes don’t know how to take them, you maybe don’t know what they’re like as a player, but we both knew what we were like as players and as

people. That helps massively.”

The Ferguson-McCrorie pairing has helped the Reds raise their game and their position in the Premiership table – they sit in third place, three points behind Neil Lennon’s side ahead of today’s encounter – with Ferguson hitting seven goals this season already. Perhaps the arrival of

McCrorie has aided this

impressive output.

“It’s also good that we’re demanding of each other,” Ferguson says. “We’re always on at each other trying to get each other to play better and the past few games we’ve played together I have felt really comfortable in there with him and I look forward to that continuing. I’m also looking forward to facing Brown and McGregor. That’s a challenge you want in games, against guys who have won trophies in their careers. Me and Ross, we’re aiming to do that in our careers. We want to go up against them, get in their faces and hopefully put on a good performance and take the points.”

Celtic’s recent travails will not influence the thinking of Aberdeen today as manager Derek McInnes and his squad eschew any possibility that their opponents are under-par.

Ferguson’s view is that the Parkhead outfit are still a top side who have dominated Scottish football for a decade and more.

For Aberdeen, however, it’s not about Celtic nor Rangers; the focus at Pittodrie is on what McInnes’s men can achieve and Ferguson has no difficulty putting a spin on that.

He says: “Everything’s looking bright. The squad is good and we have people like Sam Cosgrove, Matty Kennedy, Greig Leigh and Mikey Devlin ready to come back soon. They are top quality players. We have a good chance to pull level with Celtic, but we want to push the Old Firm as far as we can and I think we have the squad capable of doing that.”

McInnes agrees with that summation, choosing not to dwell not on what is happening in Glasgow.

“When I first turned up at Pittodrie we were being judged against Inverness and Ross County because we couldn’t beat them,” said the Pittodrie boss. “We’re now judged against Celtic and Rangers and that pleases me. We have to knuckle down and believe we can get the result.”