Niall McGinn has had to be patient this season – but even when he hasn’t been starting he hopes his presence has helped drive on others in the Aberdeen squad.
The attacker is in the mix to start against St Mirren at Pittodrie tonight as Aberdeen look to head into the international break with six wins from eight Premiership games.
McGinn has featured seven times so far this term for the Reds – but just three of those appearances have been from the start.
The latest of which was the Northern Irishman’s impressive display in last Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Ross County in Dingwall.
The performances of Scott Wright and Ryan Hedges in the forward areas this season, combined with an ankle knock sustained in August, have limited McGinn’s starts.
But the 33-year-old also believes his presence on the bench has brought the best out of colleagues such as Wright and Hedges as they strive to remain in Derek McInnes’ starting line-up.
McGinn said: “It’s been one of those ones where I picked up an ankle injury against St Johnstone (on August 20) and had to come off.
“It’s just one of those situations where the team has just gelled. We’ve done reasonable well.
“I’ve just had to be patient. It’s what comes of a team doing well – there are a lot of good players here fighting for different positions.
“The boys who’ve come in have done really well – Scotty Wright and Ryan Hedges have been brilliant and these are players who play in my position.
“You have to be pleased for them, because more often than not over the past couple of years there have been players behind me.
“They’ve come in and scored goals, which is pleasing for them.
“It can only benefit the team even if I’m not playing. When they see the calibre of player that’s behind them, it should push them even more to keep doing well.
“I was over the moon last week to come in and play. I enjoyed the game, I was on the ball, creating chances and it was an all-round good day.”
One of the features of McGinn’s performance against Ross County was his combination play with Jonny Hayes.
Aberdeen fans were used to seeing the pair dovetail to great effect during their first spells at Pittodrie between 2012 and 2017.
However, that was usually when the duo were operating on either flank and supplying striker Adam Rooney.
But since Hayes returned to the Dons from Celtic in the summer, he has predominantly been used as left wing-back, with McGinn operating in front of him against the Staggies.
He added: “With Jonny being left-wing back, we’ve always had a good relationship and understand each other’s game.
“The good old days were me, Rooney, and Jonny. We always knew each other’s game so well, playing off the right and the left, creating chances and scoring goals.
“First and foremost, Jonny has been brilliant since he came back. It’s good to have a good friend of mine, and more importantly, a good player to have in our team who can help us going forward.
“He’s even shown defensively over the last couple of months how brilliant he is at running back and tracking runners.
“Jonny will run up and down all day and he’s definitely a good asset for us.”
St Mirren are currently propping up the rest of the Premiership.
However, McGinn isn’t taking the Buddies lightly as the Dons look to head into the international break with back-to-back wins in the league.
He said: “St Mirren made a lot of good signings in the summer, so it’s a surprise to see them down where they are.
“But they are a good side, they added good players and I’d expect them to be a bit higher in the months ahead.
“What they’ve probably lacked so far is someone to score that goal for them because by all accounts they have played well in games, but just not been able to put it in the net.
“We have to just concentrate on ourselves, that’s the most important thing.
“It’s down to us to make sure St Mirren’s confidence stays low by winning the game.
“As a team we feel in a good place at the moment, we have been winning a lot of games and playing well.”