Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie is looking forward to renewing his “fierce rivalry” with Rangers midfielder and ex-team-mate Ryan Jack this weekend.
However, once the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden on Sunday is done and dusted the two north-east natives will revert to their off-the-pitch friendship.
The pair played together at Pittodrie for two years before Jack left for Ibrox in summer 2017.
Shinnie, who arrived at his hometown club in 2015 and took over the captaincy from Jack, said: “To be fair, we’re good friends. We’ve been at each other’s weddings in the last couple of years and our wives and kids get on.
“Because of that, out of it (football) we’re friends, but on it it’s that fierce rivalry and it’s like any other game.
“They’re always good games I enjoy, he’s obviously a tremendous player. I always respected him when he was here.”
Shinnie and Jack faced each other in the Granite City on the first day of the Premiership campaign, with the Dons salvaging a late 1-1 draw thanks to youngster Bruce Anderson.
The Reds captain admits he’s been impressed by Rangers’ development since England and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard took the helm over the summer.
Gerrard’s men have taken five more points from their opening nine fixtures than Derek McInnes’s Aberdeen.
Shinnie, while underlining Aberdeen’s disappointment with their own performance in August’s fixture, said: “They’ve sort of got this new lease of life.
“Maybe with the league not going as expected – we’ve had a slow start, Celtic have maybe had a dip but are starting to pick up again – they’ve picked up results, but their performances haven’t been as eye-catching until recently. They (Rangers) might see it as a chance to get their hands on some kind of silverware.
“They’ve got a good team, a good squad and it’s vitally important we turn up on the day and put in a good performance.”
Shinnie says before matches there is minimal contact between himself and Jack, who has established himself as a key player under Gerrard, but they’ll discuss their duel afterwards.
He said: “There’s not so much gloating but we’ll always have a laugh after the game. Before it and during it, it’s always that rivalry.”
Shinnie, 27, is no stranger to League Cup semi-finals, having played in two for Inverness – a loss to Hearts and a win against the Jambos – while also playing in the victory against Morton at Hampden for the Dons in 2016/17.
He also thinks his recent involvement with Alex McLeish’s Scotland – two caps off the bench at Hampden plus playing there four times for the Reds in the past two campaigns across League Cup and Scottish Cup matches – will help him focus on his role as captain on Sunday – driving McInnes’s side to victory.
Shinnie said: “It’s always important to lay a marker and set a tempo for the boys, to show we really need to be up for it.
“If they haven’t played in a semi or at Hampden and the hype around it, then I’m there for the boys to come and speak to me.
“It’s not massively different to the build-up to any other game, but I try to do the same things I always do and drive my team on.
“(I’m) not normally (more nervous for big games like these at the national stadium); maybe now it’s being involved with the Scotland set-up or being involved in semi-finals or finals but I’m maybe more comfortable at Hampden than I would’ve been. I feel like I’m never away from the place. It’s good when you’ve got that experience of it.
“I’m not one for getting overly nervous before games; it’s more excitement than anything else.”
He added: “It’s a game that we’re all looking forward to. It’s these games we always want as a club.
“We’ve had it over the last couple of years so it’s been good, but it’s another chance to go for a trophy and that’s something we want.”