Graeme Shinnie and Ryan Christie will be involved in their third major final together this afternoon, although the Aberdeen captain regrets it’s the first time they’ll be on opposing sides when the first whistle blows at Hampden.
The pair went from the despair of defeat on penalties by Aberdeen in the 2014 League Cup final to the high of Scottish Cup final success the following year during their days with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
They were denied the chance of repeating the latter in 2017 as Christie’s loan deal with the Dons prevented him playing against parent club Celtic, while his form during that 18-month spell ended any hope of making the reunion permanent.
Derek McInnes made several attempts to persuade Brendan Rodgers to part with the midfielder and was close to success in the summer only to see Christie finally convince the Parkhead manager of his worth to secure a new three-year deal.
It’s a frustration for the Aberdeen manager and his skipper that has the potential to intensify later today, but Shinnie always knew his former colleague had the ability, and just as importantly the determination, to shine at Celtic.
“I remember in one of the training sessions at Inverness he didn’t track back and I had a full-on argument with him that lasted for about 30 minutes!” said Shinnie. “We had a laugh about that when he came to Aberdeen, but growing up in that Inverness side it was all about working hard.
“Maybe we didn’t have all the ability in the world but we worked as hard as we can. That’s what I like about Ryan. He’s got the talent but he also works his socks off which is something that I rate.
“He’s one of those boys that thrives on confidence and when he’s got it he’s capable of anything. That’s why it’s no surprise to see him do so well at Celtic. He came on loan here, developed and learned a lot.
“You’d love to have a player of his calibre here. He did excellently when he was here and is a great boy to have in the dressing room. Going back to Celtic and being amongst it – all he really looked for was that chance. He’s taken it and done well, but hopefully not too well on Sunday.”
Christie got that early glimpse of how focussed and driven Shinnie can be in the search for success and that’s something Celtic captain Scott Brown is equally aware of after some bruising collisions between the pair down the years.
The news that Brown looks likely to start today’s final after recovering from injury in time for a short run out as a substitute in Thursday’s Europa League win against Rosenborg will delight his Pittodrie counterpart who relishes their love-hate relationship.
Shinnie said: “I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions and he probably hates me but he’s more respectful than you think. On the pitch he is a battler like I am and he goes all out to win for his team which is something I respect and love. I’m like that myself when I get over the white line and on to the pitch as I am just desperate to win the game.
“It’s about being competitive and we are two battlers so there will be some points in the game when we come together. That’s what happens and we will deal with it like men.”
So far it’s been two defeats in the finals Shinnie has played for the Dons against Celtic and he’s determined to make it third time lucky so he can join Martin Buchan, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish, Stewart McKimmie and Russell Anderson on a distinguished list of Aberdeen captains who have lifted silverware for the club.
He added: “As a captain that’s the sort of list you want to be joining and it’s something I’ve been desperate for as soon as I came here. When you’re made captain you want to lift silverware and be remembered at a club for doing that.”