Evening Express

GMS aims to have last laugh by delivering glory in Red

Gary Mackay-Steven and Dons skipper Graeme Shinnie celebrate together.

Winger Gary Mackay-Steven has vowed to maintain his impressive early season form to deliver a “big year” for boss Derek McInnes.

The 27-year-old revealed Pittodrie gaffer McInnes has challenged him to hit top form consistently this season.

He aims to rise to the challenge by making it a campaign to remember.

So far it has been mission accomplished with Mackay-Steven the Reds’ top scorer on four goals, three of those from the penalty spot.

Mackay-Steven is set to start against Kilmarnock at Pittodrie on Saturday in the final game before the international break.

He said: “The gaffer wants a big year from me and I am determined to give him one.

“I feel good physically and am in a great place with my confidence high. I had a really good pre-season with no setbacks which was really important for me.

“I played in all the pre-season games and that allowed me to hit the ground running early doors and I took confidence from that.”

Mackay-Steven netted a double and set up another goal in the 4-0 Betfred Cup defeat of St Mirren.

Following that performance boss McInnes insisted Mackay-Steven should be in contention for a Scotland call-up.

He has been capped just once for Scotland when coming off the bench in a 0-0 draw with the USA in November 2013.

The chance of a second cap did not come as the winger was not named in Scotland boss Alex McLeish’s squad for a Hampden double header next month.

Scotland face World Cup semi-finalists Belgium in a friendly at Hampden on September 7 before a Uefa Nations League game against Albania four days later.

Having signed on from Celtic in a £150,000 deal for two years last summer, the winger’s contract is up at the end of the season.

For now all his concentration is on hitting the high standards demanded by boss McInnes.

GMS said: “I just want to play as well as I can.

“That is all I can focus on.”

That tunnel vision is not restricted to his own performances as he insists the Reds, who drew 1-1 at the weekend having conceded late on, won’t be sidetracked by how rivals fare.

Hearts are the only side to have a 100% record after three games with Celtic, Rangers and Hibs all dropping points.

Mackay-Steven said: “The league is going to be strong this year with up and down results for everyone.

“We just have to focus on ourselves and try to pick up as many points as we can.

“There is maybe a lot talked about other clubs but we quietly go about our own business.

“We know what we can do.

“We know on our day we can beat everyone and we just have to be consistent with our work.”

Aberdeen’s attack was recently bolstered by the capture of Manchester United striker James Wilson on loan for the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old made his Dons debut as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw at Hibs.

Striker Stevie May has started the last two games while Sam Cosgrove got the nod earlier.

As one of the main creative outlets on the flank, Mackay-Steven aims to supply whoever leads the Reds’ attack.

He said: “All our strikers bring something different to the table. We just need to keep feeding them and the goals will come.”

Rivals Celtic and Rangers are both in Europa League play-off action tomorrow with a place in the group stages up for grabs.

Aberdeen lost out at the first step when losing 4-2 on aggregate to Premier League Burnley in the second qualifying round.

Although disappointed, GMS reckons that has given the Dons’ domestic campaign extra impetus.

He said: “Going out of Europe was massively disappointing.

“However, we got confidence from feeling we were good enough to go through the tie against Burnley.

“There were positives to take into the league.

“We have so much to play for this season and want to be right there at the top of the table.”