Boss McInnes ready to seal deal in Dubai to keep versatile O’Connor at Pittodrie

Anthony O'Connor opens the scoring at Pittodrie against Hamilton.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes today confirmed he will use the week in Dubai to thrash out a new contract with defender Anthony O’Connor.

The Dons were today set to jet out for a warm weather winter training camp in the United Arab Emirates and are scheduled to touch down early tomorrow morning. McInnes will use the time in the Middle East to push forward contract talks with O’Connor, whose deal expires at the end of the season.

The 25-year-old Irish stopper, pictured, has been free to talk to other clubs since the winter transfer window opened on January 1.

McInnes is determined to retain the former Republic of Ireland U21 international centre-back and is confident of securing him on a new deal.

He said: “The plan is for Anthony and I to talk about his contract while in Dubai.

“Anthony has been an integral part of the team and has been playing week in, week out.

“He is also playing very well.

“I am confident we can get Anthony to re-sign.”

Versatile defender-midfielder O’Connor has made 54 starts, with a further seven appearances off the bench, since signing for the Dons in July 2016.

Former Burton Albion stopper O’Connor is one of three first-team regulars with deals set to run out at the end of the campaign.

Scotland international Kenny McLean, 26, and World Cup-bound Icelandic cap Kari Arnason, 35, also have deals running out and are free to speak to interested clubs.

Centre-back Arnason, who left Cypriot side AC Amonia last summer to rejoin the Dons, recently confirmed he wants to sign a new deal at Pittodrie.

Midfielder McLean, who cost the Reds £300,000 from St Mirren in January 2015, has confirmed he will not pen a new contract and will move on in the summer.

Rangers had a £300,000 bid for McLean rejected by Aberdeen last summer.

McInnes has also entered into contract talks with rising star Frank Ross, who is out of contract in the summer, and hopes to have his future tied to Pittodrie soon.

The Dons gaffer recently confirmed he could put players out on loan to open up the way for another quality signing following the addition of Niall McGinn on a long-term deal until 2021.

Summer signing Greg Tansey has been sent out on loan to Ross County until the end of the season.

Midfielder Tansey, has made 10 starts for the Dons this season since his move on a three-year deal from Inverness Caley Thistle and, according to reports, will make the switch permanent on a two-year contract if the Staggies dodge relegation.

He had been dogged by a hernia problem and underwent surgery in September.

The Reds were today set to fly out of Glasgow to Dubai and will train at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, the same facility the club used in the United Arab Emirates last January.

They will face Uzbekistan side Lokomotiv Tashkent in a closed doors friendly on Sunday.

The Uzbeks recently won the league and cup double and are preparing for the group stages of the Asian Champions League.

McInnes said: “We played an Uzbekistan side in Dubai last season (Bunyodkor, 2-1 victory) and they provided strong opposition. It will be the same again this time out in Dubai.”

Lokomotiv Tashkent defeated Bunyodkor 1-0 last month to win their third Uzbekistan Cup in four years.

McInnes said: “Dubai will be important for everyone.

“The players got about a week off after the Hearts game (0-0 draw at Pittodrie, December 30) and then we took them back in and got them moving again.

“It has been a similar situation to last year when we had that very early start due to the Europa League involvement.

“Last January everyone was grateful for the break.”