INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle striker Andrew Shinnie insists he has not rejected a new offer from the Highland club but admits he is flattered to be linked with a move to Aberdeen.
Shinnie, who moved to Caledonian Stadium from Rangers in July 2011, has scored 12 goals for high-flying Inverness this season and was the first player from the club to have won a full Scotland international cap, coming on as a late substitute in November’s friendly win over Luxembourg.
But the player could be available on a free transfer in the summer if he does not sign a contract extension at Inverness and Aberdeen manager Craig Brown has revealed that they are monitoring the 23-year-old. “We have a list of players we’d like to sign who will be free agents. Shinnie is on that list,” admitted Brown.
Speaking ahead of Caley Thistle’s Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final clash with Hearts at Easter Road this weekend, Shinnie said: “Obviously it’s a great compliment a team as big as Aberdeen and their manager does like me. But, as far as thinking I’m going there, that’s not on my mind right now. I’m happy where I am in Scotland and I’m happy at the club.”
Speaking about his contract offer from Inverness, Shinnie added: “No, I haven’t made that decision. I think maybe people reported it a bit wrong. I haven’t rejected it. I haven’t said I’m leaving Inverness. I just asked the manager for a bit more time to fully be convinced in my mind what I want and not to maybe rush into a decision and then think I’ll regret it.”
Inverness manager Terry Butcher said the forward is “playing it steadily” but is confident he will still be in the Highland capital next season. “He’s looking at things and assessing things,” Butcher said of Shinnie. “He’s probably looking at who we’re going to re-sign as well as to what he does. But he’s playing it very sort of steadily, he’s having a look and seeing what the situation is. I’m still confident that he’ll re-sign. I think he needs to play here for another year.”
Aberdeen raided Inverness back in June when they lured winger Johnny Hayes to Pittodrie, but Butcher insists there has been no contact from the Dons this time round. “[Aberdeen manager] Craig Brown was very good last year and told us about their intention to talk to Johnny Hayes,” added Butcher. “But thankfully there’s been no phone-calls about Andy Shinnie. But he can do that or speak to his agent, I’m not bothered about that. We’ve made our pitch and I’m sure we can reach a successful conclusion when it comes to terms. The ball’s very much in Andy’s court.”
Far more pressing for Butcher is Saturday’s cup clash with Hearts, and yesterday the Englishman said he has no concerns about his team’s supporters being outnumbered in Edinburgh.
Hearts have so far sold about 10,000 tickets for the weekend Easter Road clash while Caley Thistle are unlikely to sell many more than 2,000. But Inverness are used to defying the odds against bigger teams this season, sitting second in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League. And Butcher, assistant Maurice Malpas and captain Richie Foran all helped Motherwell beat Hearts at the same stage and venue seven years ago, so playing Hearts miles from their home ground holds no fears.
“Hearts will outnumber us, no doubt about that, maybe even five, six, seven to one,” said Butcher. “But we always do well away from home. We always carry a good support away from home, very noisy. It’s not the biggest but they ain’t half noisy. We will maybe have ten times more away fans than we normally do. So from our point of view it’s brilliant and I’m sure they will make a helluva lot of noise and cheer us on.”
Butcher was delighted with the response of fans when his team beat Aberdeen 3-0 on Saturday to continue their excellent season. “If I’ve done nothing in my career at Caley Thistle, I’ve got the main stand to sing at games. I don’t think any Caley Thistle manager has done that. Last week, orchestrating the main stand, I have never done that before.
“We have some great supporters and I’m sure they will come down in their numbers. But most important they have got to bring their singing voices and cheer us all the way to Hampden.”