Sam Cosgrove's career at Aberdeen almost couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. Coming on as a second-half substitute against Celtic towards the end of the 2017/18 season, he was shown a straight red card eight minutes into his debut.
At that point Dons supporters were thinking, "here we go again" another failed attempt in Derek McInnes' target man project. It would take until November 2018, into the following season where heads would begin to turn for Cosgrove as up to that point there was a strong desire for him to be as far away from the Aberdeen first team as possible.
Immobile, slow, no first touch, can't score, can't hold the ball up, these were a few of the regular complaints aimed at the striker from the Pittodrie faithful. He came into the 2018/19 season with pressure - along with other strikers Stevie May and James Wilson - following Adam Rooney's departure. Despite scoring in a 4-0 win over St Mirren in the Betfred Cup it took until December for Cosgrove to fully hit form.
2-1 down to Livingston at half-time at Pittodrie and Derek McInnes needed some inspiration. Cosgrove managed to get on the end of a Connor McLennan cross and score his first league goal for Aberdeen which started the comeback for a 3-2 win. That turned out to be one of seven goals Cosgrove scored during the month of December, including a brace in a 2-0 win over Hearts. He would finish the season as second top scorer in the Scottish Premiership, only one behind Alfredo Morelos.
His initial run of form came down to a change in the formation where Stevie May played as a second striker in behind Cosgrove which allowed a greater supply to the striker, along with wingers McLennan and McGinn. Following that, you could clearly see he was a striker playing with confidence. He began to develop the intelligence of where in the penalty area to be and his suppliers began to read his runs.
As much as Cosgrove was raw when he first broke into the first team, his teammates weren't up to speed with his style of play. Previous striker Rooney struck up a seamless connection with McGinn and Jonny Hayes where they knew exactly where each other would be. This began to apply to Cosgrove.
Many Aberdeen supporters were still sceptical with Cosgrove further into the season when he began to hit a goal drought and said that his good run of form earlier in the season was just a purple patch and he wasn't all that.
Fast forward to the summer and McInnes brought in two new strikers, Curtis Main and James Wilson on a permanent deal. Questions were raised whether these two could partner Cosgrove, however, he's remained as the sole striker and already hit 10 goals in all competitions this season, including a hat-trick in the Europa League.
From a striker who looked like he couldn't buy a goal to someone now who has composure in front of goal, strength, improved hold up play and awareness to find space in the box. People will look at Cosgrove and assume, with his height, he's a basic target man. Despite likely being signed for that role he has become an Adam Rooney-like poacher.
Many doubted him when he first arrived but now Sam Cosgrove is arguably one of the best strikers in the Scottish Premiership and maybe even a contender for the Balon D'or after all.