It was the lure of regular game time and the thrill of chasing down a league title that enticed Andrew Shinnie to swap Birmingham for Leith.
The attacking midfielder has signed up for a season-long loan spell at Hibs, having turned down other offers to return to the Scottish Premiership and he said it was the size of the club and the sense that something special is brewing that swayed him.
“There were a few offers in the top division but the manager showed how keen he was to bring me here and Hibs are one of the top clubs in Scottish football,” he said. “They shouldn’t be in the Championship. They have been down here for a couple of years and need to get back to the top-flight .
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never been involved in a title race or trying to get promotion so that was a factor.
“At Inverness, we never once thought ‘we could push Celtic here’. Little Inverness, we gave it a good bash – we were second for a good long while – but I’m now at a club expected to win the league and I’ve not been part of that. I can’t wait.
“Birmingham are a massive club in the Championship and, although they could have got a play-off position last season, mid-table has been considered a good end to the season. But you don’t want to go into a campaign thinking ‘we want to get mid-table’, and I’m at a team now where the fans expect the title. You need to thrive in that environment.”
Having begun his career at Rangers, he moved to Inverness in 2011 and in helping the club punch above its weight he attracted a lot of admirers in the game. Capped for Scotland in 2012, he then got his move to Birmingham City in 2013, but while there have been spells when he has flourished he has been stymied by the recent lack of opportunities.
“It has been a frustrating couple of seasons,” he added. “A couple of seasons ago it didn’t start too well but I played regularly under Gary Rowett, some of the best football of my career, and I signed a new contract last summer but since then I haven’t had much of a chance. That’s football – he brought in others ahead of me and I struggled to get a chance to show what I can do again.”
He hopes that will change at Hibs, starting with an outing against St Mirren tomorrow. “Up here it’s less difficult to get a game,” he said. “English clubs have more money and competition is tougher. Playing well up here you’re almost guaranteed to be a starter but down there, unless you’re 100 per cent bang at it, there’s not always a place in the team. Managers can throw you on the backpit and unless you’re training really well it’s hard to get back in. In Scotland squads aren’t as big so it’s easier to get a game. A lot of players down there can be harshly treated but that’s just the way it is.”
Looking for a way to kickstart things he followed a route already navigated by Scott Allan, who headed to Leith to revitalise his career after a period of stagnation down south. “He was really similar to me – he came on loan to Birmingham and didn’t get much of a chance,” said Shinnie.
“Once the manager doesn’t fancy you, then you’re struggling and he didn’t play much. Hibs were a good option, he did really well and moved on to Celtic and back to the Championship. It worked out well for him and hopefully it can work out well for me.
“But I wouldn’t say I’ve failed. I don’t know how you determine failure down there, unless you’re going for the championship.
“First year I played out of position a few times and didn’t play much and then played pretty much every week my second year – some of the best I’ve played in my career. The next season I didn’t play as much, the manager was sacked and the new manager didn’t fancy me so it hasn’t been a success, but I wouldn’t say it’s a failure. I’m looking forward to enjoying my football again.”