Evening Express

McKenna good enough to star in England – Shinnie

Scott McKenna

Skipper Graeme Shinnie has no doubt wanted man Scott McKenna could cut it not just in the Championship but the English top flight – although he hopes the defender stays at Pittodrie.

Swansea have already approached Aberdeen to inquire about the availability of the 21-year-old centre-back.

The Championship outfit are lining up a £2 million bid for the Scotland international before the transfer window closes in England on August 9.

McKenna will face Rangers in the Premiership opener at Pittodrie tomorrow as the Reds aim to bounce back from their Euro exit.

Aberdeen suffered massive disappointment when losing 3-1 after extra-time to Burnley at Turf Moor to exit the Europa League 4-2 on aggregate.

Shinnie reckons the way McKenna shackled the Clarets big-money strikers, including £15m signing Chris Wood, proves he can hack it in England’s top flight.

He only hopes that move comes a long way down the line and that tomorrow’s clash with Rangers at Pittodrie is not McKenna’s last for the Reds.

Shinnie said: “Scott McKenna and Mikey Devlin were brilliant again in what was a tough task with the physicality of the two Burnley boys up front.

“But they dealt with it brilliantly and that gave us the platform in the game.

“Scott could go to a Premier League team (in the future), as he showed what he can do against a Premier League team in Burnley.

“However, he is a level-headed guy as well and wants to rack up as many games as he can, which is really positive for a young player.

“He wants to get the experience and wants to get the games.

“There is no doubt he will probably end up going at some point but we will hold on to him as long as we can.”

Aberdeen rejected an offer in excess of £1 million from Hull City for Scotland cap McKenna during the January transfer window. Since then he has made his international breakthrough and captained Scotland in a 1-0 summer friendly loss to Mexico.

McKenna will be at the heart of the defence in a game against Rangers that marks new Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard’s first domestic game.

After the disappointment of losing at Turf Moor, skipper Shinnie challenged the Reds to bounce back with a victory.

He said: “Pittodrie will be packed for Rangers and it is a good game to have off the back of the Euro tie.

“We need to put that (loss to Burnley) at the back of our minds.

“It is a massive game but that is what it is like at Aberdeen – big games come thick and fast.

“We know the crowd will be there in their numbers so it is another game where we have to step it up.”

Aberdeen were up against a side with an immensely superior budget in Burnley, who have a £37m players’ wage budget.

Tomorrow the figures may be smaller but there is still a gulf between the budget of Rangers and that of Aberdeen.

The Ibrox club have backed Gerrard’s rebuilding by sanctioning transfers in excess of £5m during the summer.

There have also been high-profile loan deals that will require high wages.

Shinnie does not care about the cash the Ibrox club are splashing out, though.

On the disparity between the two club’s budgets, he said: “That is out of our control and we just focus on ourselves.

“The games against Burnley have been positive for us and we look to take that momentum into the league.”

Aberdeen may have been knocked out of Europe but Shinnie reckons they regained some pride for Scottish football.

It is a tie he believes the Dons deserved to win over the two legs to book a third qualifying round clash against Istanbul Basaksehir of Turkey.

He said: “In Scotland teams know what we are all about – we have proved that over the last couple of years.

“Maybe we have now shown people down in England what Scottish football is all about.

“It is not as bad as what the English make it out to be.

“But in Scotland, in terms of us, we have shown what we are all about.

“We have got a big season ahead of us again to show that.”

Aberdeen may have been underdogs against Premier League Burnley but, make no mistake, there was a belief in this squad they could progress.

It was this confidence which made losing out in extra time all the more difficult to take for the Aberdonian, particularly as the Reds had opportunities to win the tie.

He said: “We are gutted that we did not get through because that is what we wanted and what we set out to achieve.

“No matter who it was against, we wanted to get through and we had the opportunities to do that.

“It is disappointing but we will take the positives.

“We can be proud of what we did… but it wasn’t good enough.

“At the start of the game Burnley were good, although we didn’t start great in the first half.

“Once we got to grips with the game, we got right into it.

“In the second half, again, we didn’t start overly great but went on to be the better team and create the better chances.

I thought, over the two legs, we were probably the better team but we didn’t take our chances and, in the end, that kills you.”