Derek McInnes today challenged the Dons’ Scotland trio to prove what he already knows – that they are international class.
Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie are all included in interim Scotland boss Malky Mackay’s squad to face Holland at Pittodrie.
During the doomed near five-year tenure of Gordon Strachan, just one solitary cap was handed out to a Dons player.
That was to McLean in a 1-0 friendly win over the Czech Republic in March last year.
A meagre and baffling return during a period in which the Reds were Scotland’s undisputed second force.
Now that cap count could treble tomorrow with all three Dons in contention to get game time on home soil against the Dutch.
McInnes has called for the trio to make their call-up count to ensure they are in the plans for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
He said: “The game against Holland is an ideal opportunity for them.
“They have made that first step by being involved in the squad but they will want to take bigger steps with Scotland.
“To achieve that they have to do well in training while with the squad.
“Then they can play well in the game to keep proving to people and prove to themselves that they can perform at that level.
“We want our players to go and show what they are capable of in a Scotland jersey.
“Hopefully they can make that breakthrough from just being involved in a friendly to being a permanent fixture for the new manager when the real stuff comes about.”
During the failed qualifying bids for World Cup 2018 and Euro 2016, Strachan did not give a minute’s game time to an Aberdeen player.
The SFA have yet to appoint a replacement for Strachan, and the Holland friendly is a chance to change that aberration in competitive international games for the Dons by impressing on Thursday.
Asked if there was any frustration at the lack of caps to Aberdeen players during his time at Pittodrie, McInnes said: “No. At times it is just the way it is.
“Players have to try to keep showing consistency and keep believing that their time will come.
“You just have to keep working hard to improve and all three lads have done that.
“It is absolutely brilliant for them to be called up and I know how important it is to each of them.
“When I got the opportunity to tell all three that they were in the Scotland squad it is the best part of the job sometimes, when you are giving your players good news like that.”
McInnes hopes the selection of Shinnie, McLean and Christie can be the catalyst for more Pittodrie players to be called up in the future.
He said: “Even for the lads in the dressing room who aren’t involved it gives them encouragement and motivation that there is that potential, that it could also be them in the future.”
McInnes admits that part of the sales pitch when trying to sign new players is that Aberdeen offers the potential to elevate up to international level.
Under Strachan that route was blocked. Shinnie, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Jack, now at Rangers, all received call-ups but no game time or caps.
McInnes was happy to finally deliver on his promise.
He said: “Part of the pitch to sell to players like Shinnie, McLean and Christie is to come to Aberdeen and we’ll give you that platform to show you are a good player. “To come here and hopefully play at the right end of the table and get to cup finals – to play on the big stages.
“We will give you those experiences that may help you earn the trust of the national manager.”
Progressing from featuring in friendlies to playing in meaningful, competitive games is the next logical step.
The last Aberdeen player to feature in a qualifier was Scott Severin when facing Lithuania in 2006.
For now though, the focus is on the three Dons grasping their opportunity to impress – backed by a large Aberdeen support.
McInnes said: “The fact the game is at Pittodrie is a nice added bonus.
“Our supporters will get the chance to see our players perform.”
Pittodrie is set to host a Scotland international for the 15th time.
Scotland have won 10 of those games with two defeats and two draws.
Ironically, the last international was Strachan’s first game as national boss – a 1-0 friendly win over Estonia.
It has come full circle as the Granite City will again mark the start of a new era
Whether that is under Mackay, the current SFA performance director, or not remains to be seen.
McInnes said: “It means a lot to the club to have players represented for Scotland. We also have two (Scott Wright and Scott McKenna) involved with the under-21 squad.”