Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie insists he will take nothing for granted, despite finally becoming established in the Scotland set-up.
The 27-year-old cancelled his stag do in Marbella in the summer to jet out with Alex McLeish’s Scots side to Peru in the hope of earning a long-awaited debut cap.
That commitment was rewarded as Shinnie earned that international breakthrough when he came off the bench in the 2-0 friendly defeat in Peru.
Opportunities on the international stage have to be grabbed and Shinnie made the most of his time in South America as he started the 1-0 loss to Mexico.
The midfielder has been named in subsequent squads and earned further caps in Hampden friendlies against World Cup semi-finalists Belgium (a 4-0 loss) and Euro 2016 holders Portugal (a 3-1 loss).
Shinnie will tomorrow jet out with the Scots to Tirana for the Uefa Nations League tie with Albania on Saturday.
They then face Israel at Hampden on Tuesday in the final League C Group 1 match.
McLeish’s squad has been severely depleted with a raft of call-offs for the double header. After the cancellations, Scotland assistant manager Peter Grant warned there will be a zero- tolerance policy for players pulling out of squads with poor excuses.
While players are asking not to be considered for selection at the moment, Shinnie is ready to give his all for his country.
He said: “I am getting more comfortable in the surroundings of being in the Scotland squad.
“I feel like I get on with the boys in the squad and the Scotland staff and I really enjoy training and playing with them.
“I feel like I am part of the squad now. However, it is not something I take for granted and I will still continue to work as hard as I can to get as many caps as I can.”
Following his debut in Peru, Shinnie admitted that first cap meant “everything” to him.
Now in contention to earn a fifth at the Loro Borici Stadium in Shkoder, Albania, on Saturday, the Aberdonian admits he still faces a nervous wait before a Scotland squad is announced.
He need not have worried.
He said: “Being in Scotland squads and getting caps has been great. However, it is also tough because I never expect to be there and wait patiently for the squad to come out for the next one.
“I always just hope I am in the squad when it comes out.”
Shinnie’s contract with Aberdeen expires at the end of the season and he will be free to talk to any interested teams from the start of the winter transfer window on January 1.
Aberdeen have tabled a new deal that would make him one of the club’s highest earners.
The club captain recently insisted all his focus is on helping the Dons secure success, with the Betfred Cup final looming next month and that thoughts of a new deal were on the back burner.
Shinnie is in the squad along with fellow Dons Scott McKenna and Gary Mackay-Steven. McLeish’s selection has been decimated by withdrawals and he is now without another Red, Mikey Devlin, as well as Charlie Mulgrew, Kevin McDonald, Craig Gordon, Stephen O’Donnell and Ryan Jack.
Strikers Leigh Griffiths and Steven Naismith are also injured.
James McArthur has retired from international football, while Robert Snodgrass and Matt Ritchie have confirmed they would rather not be considered for selection at the moment.
Such is the lack of defensive options, uncapped Aberdeen centre-back Devlin, who has forged a strong partnership at club level with McKenna, was in contention to start in Albania.
However, Devlin was rated at “50-50” by Scotland’s medical staff for the game after picking up a knock training with McLeish’s squad, before pulling out all together and being replaced by Celtic’s Jack Hendry.
Shinnie said: “It is good for the club to have players in the international squad and shows that the team are doing well. The gaffer (Derek McInnes) and the club will be happy with having players in the squad.”
The four initial Aberdeen call-ups is recognition for the recent form that has secured a Betfred Cup final slot against Celtic at Hampden on December 2.
“It was very important for the club to get to another cup final,” said Shinnie. “When you are in a final, anything can happen. We have that to look forward to.”