Almost a year since his last Aberdeen action, frozen out midfielder Greg Tansey was today reassured he will get the chance to force his way back into the first team.
The 29-year-old started for the Dons’ reserves on Monday in a 3-0 league loss to Rangers at Cove Rangers’ Balmoral Stadium.
It was the first time Tansey had featured in a red shirt since a 3-0 first team loss at Ibrox on November 29 last year.
A misjudged tackle from Tansey on Jason Holt after just six minutes at Ibrox gifted Rangers a penalty from which they scored.
Tansey was substituted a few minutes before half-time and that was the start of a nightmare 11 months for the midfielder.
He subsequently underwent two groin operations and spent the second half of last season on loan at Ross County.
During the summer Tansey’s Pittodrie career looked over as the Dons were ready to listen to any offers from interested clubs.
Had Ross County remained in the Premiership it is understood an agreement was in place between the two clubs for Tansey to move permanently to Dingwall, but their relegation meant he returned to his parent club.
McInnes insists Tansey had never been fit since signing on a three-year deal last summer and tried to play through a groin injury early into his time at the club as he was a new signing.
Tansey has spent this season battling back to fitness.
With a congested fixture schedule looming, McInnes insists Tansey will get an opportunity and challenged him to prove how good a player he is – and why McInnes was so keen to sign him from Inverness Caley Thistle.
McInnes said: “The disappointing thing for Greg is that he has never been fully fit since he came here.
“He felt a groin injury relatively early on in the pre season and tried to keep it to himself because he didn’t want to flag it up just in the door and a new signing.
“But ultimately the issue became a real problem.
“In fairness to Greg, in getting to the root of the problem and getting it dealt with he has kept himself in brilliant nick.
“It is testament to him for keeping himself so trim.”
Tansey initially underwent surgery on the groin injury last September. The persistent problem saw him go under the knife again in December, then in March while on loan at the Staggies.
Tansey was one of McInnes’ main signings last summer when arriving on a three-year deal.
The Dons boss had failed in a transfer deadline day swoop to land him from Inverness Caley Thistle in January 2016.
A long-term admirer of Tansey, he resurrected that interest and landed his man on a free contract 18 months later.
However, Tansey made just nine starts and two appearances off the bench for the Reds before being loaned to Ross County.
Tansey made a solitary start and one substitute appearance for the Staggies, aggravating the injury in a 2-0 defeat by St Johnstone on February 24.
He underwent surgery in March and returned for one more start in a 2-0 loss at Hamilton in April.
Now he could be set for a return to the Reds first team.
“Greg has worked extremely hard to get to the stage where he could play that game (against Rangers reserves),” said McInnes.
“That was another step in his rehabilitation. However, it is a lot to expect him to be back fully to where he wants to be.
“With Greg training fully now and playing a game, he is getting closer to being back involved in the first team.”
Crucially, is Tansey someone who can still play a key role for Aberdeen?
McInnes said: “Greg has not been fully fit since he came here.
“There are a lot of hugely important games coming up and a lot of fixtures in December, eight games.
“The full squad will be utilised – no doubts about that.
“So Greg has got an opportunity to come and play his part.
“Hopefully when that opportunity comes along for Greg he can go and show how good a player he is and why we were keen to get him.”