Dons boss Del thinks star defender McKenna, 21, is the best in the land

Scott McKenna, right.
Scott McKenna, right.

Dons boss Derek McInnes today claimed Scott McKenna is currently the best centre-back in the Scottish Premiership.

Aberdeen and Scotland legend Willie Miller also hailed the 21-year-old.

Rising star McKenna has met up with Alex McLeish’s Scotland squad having received a debut senior call-up.

McKenna is in contention to win a debut cap in Friday’s Hampden friendly against Costa Rica and Tuesday’s game against Hungary in Budapest.

Aberdeen rejected four approaches from Championship Hull City during the January transfer window to sign McKenna. The final was in excess of £1 million.

McKenna recently signed a contract extension tying him to Pittodrie until 2023.

McInnes said: “I don’t see a better centre-half at the minute in the Premiership than McKenna.

“He was faultless, absolutely faultless against Dundee.

“He is a diamond of a boy that is just getting better and better.

“McKenna and (Anthony) O’Connor were very good.”

McKenna is with the Scotland squad along with fellow Dons Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie.

Scotland U21 captain McKenna made his first team breakthrough when starting in the 1-0 defeat of Motherwell at Fir Park in September.

If anyone is well placed to assess a centre-back it is Aberdeen and Scotland defensive legend Willie Miller.

The Gothenburg Great, capped 65 times by Scotland, led the Dons to European Cup Winner’s Cup and Super Cup glory in 1983.

In a defensive partnership with Scotland boss McLeish, Miller won three league titles, four Scottish Cups and three league cups.

Miller said: “McKenna is the best young defensive centre-back.

“Hearts’ Christophe Berra and John Souttar are a strong combination with a very good record.

“The Celtic centre-backs have been a bit unpredictable this season, but are of decent quality.

“When you look at young McKenna coming in you take into consideration his age and the qualities that he can bring.

“He can find a long ball, but his strengths are at the defensive side.

“I think nowadays less credence is put on the defensive side of the game with defenders.

“It is incredible as the modern coach wants his two defenders to be able to play football and his two full-backs to be pushing up to the half-way line.

“However, more emphasis should be put on how to defend the game.

“What McKenna brings to the party is the quality of defence.

“That is his strength. He is a big, powerful unit that is strong in the air and likes a physical contest.

“He can play a bit of football, but that is not his big strength.

“I find it refreshing to see that being important in today’s game.”

One player who did miss out on selection for the Scotland squad was Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie.

The midfielder was in the previous squad for the 1-0 friendly loss to Holland at Pittodrie last November.

He was an unused substitute in that match against the Dutch and has yet to be capped.

National boss McLeish was at Pittodrie to take in the 1-0 win over Dundee, where Shinnie scored the goal.

McInnes praised his captain’s performance.

He said: “Shinnie was everywhere against Dundee, all over the pitch and picking up scraps.

“He was unlucky with a couple of attempts and was up at the edge of the box and making runs.

“Shinnie’s goal was great because he gambled that something might fall for him there.

“Niall Mcginn was brave for that and when the ball dropped to Shinnie he still had to remain composed and put it in.

“Shinnie was brilliant, although all my players performed well.”

A crowd of 15,208 braved the freezing elements to see Aberdeen register a first win in four Premiership matches.

McInnes said: “The supporters who turned up, we recognise that was a tough watch and it was freezing for them.

“But they will go home heartened by the fact we have picked up a very important three points.”