Graeme Shinnie is enjoying feeling the love of the fans as he spearheads Aberdeen’s Euro League group stage mission.
Derek McInnes has described Shinnie, who scored a sensational winning goal for Aberdeen on Thursday night against Apollon Limassol, as a proper fans’ folk hero.
Shinnie burrowed even deeper into their affections two days ago with an influential display and fine goal to secure a 2-1 first leg victory ahead of next week’s return trip to Larnaca.
Brought up in the city, Shinnie earns further credit with the fans for being an Aberdeen supporter. It also helps that he excels at playing football for his hometown team and is now leading from the front as skipper, having taken over from the departed Ryan Jack.
“It is one of the best moments I have had in front of packed out Pittodrie,” said Shinnie yesterday, as he recalled the ovation he received from the home fans. “It was brilliant with the noise and them singing my name it is what it is all about. I am hoping there are many more moments like that.”
Whether there will be more moments like it in European competition this season depends on what happens in Cyprus on Thursday. Like his manager, Shinnie is confident Aberdeen fan progress past Apollon to the play-off round.
“We have seen them here,” he said. “They know what we are all about and we know what they are all about now. It will be tough because it is never easy in Europe. Going over with a lead is brilliant and we know we will create chances. We showed that on Thursday and now it is about going with a gameplan. If we play like we did in the last round (v NK Siroki Brijeg) then we will have a great opportunity. We will need to be solid and to defend our lead, but we have the quality to cause them problems and to score.”
Fortunately Shinnie is available for the away leg after surviving an early scare when booked for a foul on Brazilian midfielder Alex in the first minute on Thursday night. He had to walk a disciplinary tightrope for the rest of the game but not only did he last the full 90 minutes, he also emerged as the match winner.
“I felt it was a good tackle, but in Europe it is a wee bit different,” he said. “I tried to keep to my normal game and I was trying to press them and to show what we were all about. I was disappointed to get the booking but I tried not to let it stop me from playing my game.”
As for his goal, Shinnie added: “I got the ball and I just had it in my head to have a shot. I hit in nice and, to be fair, as soon as it left my foot I knew it had a good chance. I was delighted when it went in.”