Departing Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie says it would’ve been “hard to watch” the Reds’ final home game of the season from the stands.
The midfielder made a surprise comeback from an ankle injury on Friday night against Hearts at Pittodrie.
A 2-1 win meant the Dons temporarily leapfrogged Kilmarnock into third place and the automatic European qualifying slot, ahead of the Ayrshire side’s victory over Hibs on Saturday.
Killie lead by goal difference going into the final weekend.
Shinnie – who has agreed a move to Derby County on a three-year deal when his contract expires at the end of the campaign – put in a typically energetic midfield performance, despite playing with significant discomfort.
However, once business was taken care of and the full-time whistle blown, he was able to soak up the Pittodrie atmosphere one last time to a chorus of: “Graeme Shinnie, he’s one of our own,” from the Red Army.
Afterwards, he said: “I’m desperate to play any game, but it was more important because it was my last game at Pittodrie.
“It would’ve been hard to watch from the stands. I wanted to help the team out, because it wasn’t about me.
“We’ve still got a lot to play for to try to secure third and get that European spot.
“I was more desperate to help the boys.”
Shinnie’s appearance in Derek McInnes’ starting line-up wasn’t a given – in fact, the gaffer had publicly stated he was hopeful of the captain taking his Dons bow in the season finale against Hibs at Easter Road next weekend.
The 27-year-old damaged ankle ligaments in a crucial victory at Rugby Park last month and had to convince the club medical team and McInnes to include him against the Jambos.
In the end, he got through the game with heavy strapping and painkillers.
Shinnie said: “I did a bit of training during the week and just thought I could strap it up and have a bit of painkillers.
“I was desperate to play, and it was about just dealing with the little bit of pain I had and getting on with it.
“It was tough at times, but you have to dig through it and get the win. We played well to dig it out and get the three points at the end.”
Despite the pain, Shinnie was happy to get stuck in during a characteristic Aberdeen-Hearts clash.
After a drab opening 45 minutes, Lewis Ferguson half-volleyed the Reds ahead, only for chaotic defending to allow Bobby Burns to equalise a few minutes later.
However, victory was secured in Shinnie’s final home game by Greg Stewart, who smashed a cross from James Wilson – the Manchester United loanee’s second assist – into the top corner past Colin Doyle.
Shinnie added: “It was a tough game. We always knew it would be as Hearts are always a tough team to come up against.
“It was ugly at times, but the most important thing was winning the game and getting the points on the board.”
The skipper joined the Reds on a pre-contract when his Inverness Caley Thistle contract ended in summer 2015 and played in three cup finals, as well as helping the team to second place in the Premiership every season until this one.
Shinnie admitted – after he was injured by a lunge from Killie’s Stuart Findlay, which earned the opposition player a second yellow card – he feared he may not get another chance to play for the Dons, having already held talks with Derby ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Celtic.
The worry was compounded by it being the most crucial part of the season, with Aberdeen still locked in the battle for Continental action.
Shinnie said: “Definitely (a fear when injury happened he might not get to play for Dons again). It’s the only stage in my career I’ve thought ‘I could be out for a wee while’.
“It wasn’t so much an impact and more of a twisted, damaged ligament. It was a tough and sore one to take, but I’ve worked hard to try to get back.
“I put myself in a position to play on Friday and I’m delighted.”
Shinnie was also delighted with his send-off from the Red Army, saying: “It was really good (the send-off). I’ve loved my four years here and was desperate to get back in the team to help them out, enjoy the end and say my farewell.”
However, as the Dons’ leader on the pitch, skipper Shinnie has already put the fanfare over his last Pittodrie appearance to one side.
He knows, should Killie slip up when Rangers visit Rugby Park on the final day, Aberdeen have to beat Hibs and put themselves in a position to capitalise.
“It’s vitally important (to not slip up against Hibs). No matter what happens with Kilmarnock,” he said.