Evening Express

Shinnie says Scots duty can boost his performances with Aberdeen

Graeme Shinnie in training with Scotland over the summer.

Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie believes being involved with the national team can only help him improve even further at club level.

The 27-year-old is in contention to earn his third Scotland cap having been named in Alex McLeish’s squad for a Hampden double header next month.

Scotland face World Cup bronze medallists Belgium on Friday September 7 before a UEFA Nations League tie with Albania the following Monday.

Despite being a stand-out performer for the Reds in recent seasons Shinnie was not capped under former Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

Having waited patiently his opportunity finally came in the summer friendlies in South America against Peru and Mexico, under new boss McLeish.

He grabbed the chance. The Aberdonian secured his first game time for his country in the 2-0 friendly loss to Peru in Lima.

Shinnie did enough to earn a start in a 1-0 friendly loss to World Cup-bound Mexico in front of 71,000 fans at the legendary Stadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Now he is determined to make the most of this opportunity to add to his caps tally against one of the world’s top sides.

He said: “I waited my time to try to get that chance.

“It came in the summer when I was away to Mexico and Peru.

“I was delighted to keep my place as it gives me the opportunity to try to impress again.

“In intentional football you come up against top players and top teams.

“You are going to learn so much from it and just being there (with Scotland) and involved will be so helpful for me.

“Hopefully I can get another cap or two under my belt. But just being there and seeing these teams will help me.

“I am getting older but am still learning all the time so it is something I am looking forward to.”

Shinnie is the only Dons player named in McLeish’s squad as centre-back Scott McKenna is ruled out with a hamstring tear.

Dons defender McKenna, subject of a rejected £3.5 million bid from Celtic recently, captained the Scots in the defeat to Mexico and would surely have been in McLeish’s squad if fit.

Shinnie said: “Mexico and Peru are experiences I will never forget and games I really enjoyed.

“I felt I did well in the games.

“I tried to work as hard as I possibly could and was eager to try to get those first two caps under my belt.

“I was eager to try to impress and try to give him (Alex McLeish) that question every time a squad came up. I didn’t want it to be a one-off so I am delighted to be back in the squad.”

Before Shinnie meets up with the Scotland squad he will lead Aberdeen out in the Premiership against Kilmarnock at Pittodrie on Saturday.

The Dons remain unbeaten in the first four domestic games but there was a lingering disappointment at conceding a late goal at Hibs to draw 1-1. Shinnie wants to travel to the Scotland camp with the momentum of a league victory.

He said: “You enjoy the international break a little better if you go in with a win.

“We want to be putting points on the board and winning as many games as we can at this stage of the season.

“When it goes into the 86th minute and you are minutes away from a good result, to lose a goal in that manner was frustrating.

“It was the first time Hibs got in behind us with the ball across and the guy was standing on his own to tap it in.

“If we had come away with a 1-0 win it would have been a great result down in Edinburgh.

“It is a draw, we take it and we move on and look forward to Kilmarnock.”

The Dons beat Kilmarnock three times in the league, drew one and also knocked them out of the Scottish Cup on penalties.

Shinnie said: “We were Kilmarnock’s bogey team last season and the one they couldn’t beat so they will come up determined to change that.

“It is up to us to combat that and get back to winning ways. We need to build from a clean sheet because we know we have players up front who can score.”