Aberdeen to step up O’Connor contract extension efforts

Aberdeen's Anthony O'Connor battles with Ross County's Thomas Mikkelsen.

Aberdeen aim to come out of the international break having pushed forward contract talks with Anthony O’Connor.

The defender’s deal expires at the end of the season and boss Derek McInnes is keen to retain the 24-year-old.

The Dons return to action against Motherwell at Pittodrie on Saturday following the Premiership’s two-week international shutdown.

Aberdeen aimed to use that break in the domestic card to discuss the contract situation with the former Republic of Ireland U21 international.

Scotland cap Kenny McLean is also out of contract at the end of the season but has already confirmed he will move on from Pittodrie in the summer to end his three-and-a-half year spell at Pittodrie.

Dons boss McInnes had hoped to tie the 25-year-old to a new deal but McLean sees his future elsewhere.

McLean will be free to talk to any interested clubs from the start of the January transfer window.

Like McLean, versatile O’Connor, who can operate at centre-back and midfield, has been a key component of McInnes’ side this season.

When asked if there was likely to be any development on O’Connor’s contract situation, McInnes confirmed: “We will pick up with that over the international break.”

Meanwhile, McInnes remains overwhelming favourite to succeed axed Pedro Caixinha as manager at Rangers.

Bookmakers have the Dons boss at 1-3 to take over at Ibrox.

The closest runner is former Rangers, Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst, whose odds have been slashed to 3-1. The 42-year-old led Feyenoord to the Dutch title last season, but they are languishing in sixth spot in their title defence, 12 points behind leaders PSV.

Rangers recently confirmed there have been no interviews with any potential candidates to replace Caixinha yet.

The Ibrox club confirmed they have received numerous applications, with more anticipated this week.

There has been no approach for McInnes and it is business as usual at Pittodrie.

Three players are currently away on international duty this week and will be hoping to return to Pittodrie with McInnes still at the helm for Saturday’s home clash against Motherwell.

Veteran centre-back Kari Arnason is currently on international duty with Iceland in Qatar.

The Icelanders qualified for the World Cup in Russia by topping their group. Arnason joined up with the squad for a 10-day training camp and two friendlies.

He started last week’s 2-1 friendly loss to Czech Republic in Qatar to break into Iceland’s top 20 all-time international appearances. He is in contention to face hosts Qatar later today.

Meanwhile, Arnason’s centre-back partner Scott McKenna and winger Scott Wright are both set to star for the Scotland U21s tonight.

The Scots face Ukraine at McDiarmid Park in a Euro U21 qualifier.

McInnes said: “Arnason is away with Iceland again and two of our lads with the Scotland U21s. With the U21s it is something for them to really get their teeth into.

“McKenna and Wright are now established in the U21s and hopefully they can both continue to make an impression.”

Aberdeen also had three players in the Scotland senior squad for the 1-0 loss to Holland at Pittodrie.

McLean and Ryan Christie started while Graeme Shinnie was an unused substitute.

McInnes reckons other Dons players will be targeting international recognition.

He said: “We have a number of Scottish lads and a few Irish in O’Connor and (Adam) Rooney who will also want to get involved in their international set-up.”

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