Derek McInnes is delighted to have Niall McGinn fit again for the visit to Rugby Park today but is equally pleased that Kilmarnock’s Josh Magennis will be joining the Northern Ireland international at Euro 2016 next summer.
“Big Josh” was a popular figure during four years at Pittodrie where he played in virtually every position for the club with the exception of goalkeeper – which is a bit of an irony when you consider his professional career started as a keeper with Cardiff City before making the transition to a versatile outfield player after failing to make the grade between the sticks.
That was part of the problem as Magennis struggled to settle in one position but that has changed since switching to Kilmarnock where he has also developed into a vital member of Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad.
Now barring injuries he will be in France as the Irish prepare to face Poland, Ukraine and world champions Germany and the Aberdeen manager insists it’s just reward for someone determined to succeed regardless of various setbacks.
“I still keep in touch with Josh, he’s a brilliant lad” said McInnes. “He would be the first to recognise that he just needed to go away and play football regularly.
“He was a really popular boy when he was here but we just couldn’t guarantee regular games. He thought it was best for him to play elsewhere and so did we.
“There are loads of players in the same position because it gives them a chance to show what they’re capable of elsewhere. He’s done that and is now having a great experience with Northern Ireland. It is a brilliant achievement to be going to France next summer and he has contributed to them getting there.
“I always enjoy seeing players I’ve worked with in the past doing well when they move on.”
Not too well today, of course, as Aberdeen look to continue their recent revival with a ninth successive league win against Kilmarnock to stay no more than four points behind Celtic at the top of the league.
Last week’s win against Hearts provided further evidence that they have recovered from a slump in form following an impressive start to the season and Kenny McLean puts that down to the faith McInnes shows in his players.
It’s something the midfielder knows all about after people were questioning the Aberdeen manager’s decision to pay St Mirren £300,000 for the player when he initially struggled to make an impact.
“This season I started well after the manager had stuck by me even though I hadn’t done as well as I could” admits McLean. “I came in and maybe I was trying too hard and frustration was creeping in.
“There was frustration that I wasn’t hitting the heights or playing as well as I could. The manager backed me and knew what I was capable of. It made me work harder and I am reaping the rewards.
“Now the team are back playing the way we know we can play as well. It was a tough spell but we’ve shown some character to come through it. It wasn’t easy at the time but we knew we had the players, squad and the ability to come through it.
“That is what we have done. “We are going in the right direction again and we are playing as well as we have. We just want to do better in every game and the results are coming.”