Evening Express

Aberdeen boss McInnes says Shinnie has earned chance with Scotland against Belgium tonight

Graeme Shinnie receives instruction from manager Alex McLeish.

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes insists Graeme Shinnie has earned the opportunity to add to his Scotland cap tally against Belgium and Albania.

And he wants his skipper to make the most of any chance in the Hampden double header to further strengthen his position within Alex McLeish’s Scots set-up.

The 27-year-old Reds captain was called into national boss McLeish’s squad for the summer friendlies in South America.

Shinnie cancelled his stag trip to Marbella to join the squad and was rewarded with a debut cap when coming on as substitute in the 1-0 loss to Peru in Lima.

The Aberdonian then earned his second cap days later when starting in the 2-0 friendly loss to Mexico in front of more than 70,000 fans at the Estadio Azteca.

The squad for the South American trip was minus many regulars including players from Celtic. And McInnes hailed Shinnie for retaining his spot in McLeish’s squad.

He said: “Hopefully Graeme can continue to establish himself with Scotland not only through training with them but out on the pitch with game time.

“With the squad Graeme was involved in at the end of last season there were a lot of the Celtic players and established players left out.

“It was an opportunity for Graeme to go and show Alex his capability through his training and through games.

“He has obviously done that and has also started the season well for us, especially in the two games against Burnley in the Europa League.

“He was very influential in those games against Burnley.

“Graeme has got the recognition for that by remaining in the squad and I am delighted for him.”

Shinnie is the only Aberdeen player in McLeish’s Scotland squad that will face World Cup semi-finalists Belgium tonight.

That friendly is a warm-up for the UEFA Nations League opener against Albania on Monday.

Aberdeen centre-back Scott McKenna would have been named in the squad if fit.

However, the 21-year-old missed out with a hamstring tear that has ruled him out of Aberdeen’s last four games.

McInnes anticipates McKenna, who captained Scotland in the 2-0 loss to Mexico, to return immediately after the international break.

The subject of a rejected £7 million transfer deadline day bid from Aston Villa, centre-back McKenna is set to return for the trip to St Johnstone on Saturday September 15.

McInnes hopes club captain Shinnie can face a Belgium side packed with world class talents such as Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) and Vincent Kompany (Manchester City).

He reckons facing opponents of that calibre can only help Shinnie’s own game improve.

McInnes said: “Any time you go away to be involved with your country is a brilliant experience.

“Graeme will be involved with some of the countries’ top players.

“Then he will also hopefully get the games on top of that.

“Ideally he can get game time against Belgium and Albania.

“Belgium have some top class players involved and all of that is great for any player’s development.”

McInnes and Aberdeen aim to tie up skipper Shinnie on an extended contract.

The midfielder’s current deal expires at the end of this season and Shinnie would be free to speak with any interested club from the start of the winter transfer window on January 1.

McInnes recently confirmed he would sit down with Shinnie and his agent to try to thrash out a new extended contract.

The Aberdeen gaffer also confirmed he has been in regular contact with McLeish regarding Scotland internationalists.

He said: “I spoke to Alex after the two Scotland games in the summer and a few times since.

“Graeme has made a good impression and it is great to see him in the squad.”