Graeme Shinnie moves on from Kazakhstan calamity with resilient displays for Derby

When Graeme Shinnie left the Astana Arena eight months ago, he initially feared his sixth Scotland appearance might also be his last.
Graeme Shinnie celebrates a goal for Derby County against Wigan in the English Championship. Picture: Nathan Stirk/GettyGraeme Shinnie celebrates a goal for Derby County against Wigan in the English Championship. Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty
Graeme Shinnie celebrates a goal for Derby County against Wigan in the English Championship. Picture: Nathan Stirk/Getty

Fronting up to the media with admirable candour in the immediate aftermath of that calamitous 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan, Shinnie admitted his own substandard performance as a makeshift left-back had been a major factor in a result which got Scotland’s Euro 2020 Group I qualifying bid off to the worst possible start.

Having recovered from the raw emotion of his disappointment, Shinnie now hopes to make his return to the international stage when the Scots bring their dispiriting group stage campaign to a merciful close with the games in Cyprus tomorrow and against the Kazakhs at Hampden on Tuesday.

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“Everything about that night in Astana was tough,” reflected the 28-year-old. “The whole team didn’t play great, I didn’t play great. It was one of those nights.

“Do I still have any mental scars from it? No. I’ve been involved in many a bad night in football and will probably have many still to come.

“There is nothing still there in my mind from it. It was a bad night, I took the criticism at the time. You have to get over it and move on.”

The former Aberdeen captain has already displayed his resilience at club level this season at Derby County. Frank Lampard, the manager who signed him in the summer, moved to Chelsea before the season started and his replacement, Phillip Cocu, had no immediate place in his plans for Shinnie. That changed at the start of October when injuries handed Shinnie his chance and he has been a regular in the Derby starting line-up in recent weeks.

“I had a testing start to my career in Derby but came through that and now I’m playing well,” he added.

“It was frustrating to begin with. Going down to a new club was always going to be difficult, with a new manager coming in and a good squad of players. I always knew it was going to be tough. But I wasn’t getting any chances. I wasn’t even coming off the bench and some games I was watching from the stands. But I kept my head down and worked as hard as I could to try and force my way in.

“Eventually I got a chance and took it well. Luckily I have played six games since. It has been good. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been up and down in terms of results but from a playing point of view,I’ve enjoyed it.

“I never felt I had made a mistake joining Derby, because I could never foresee what would happen with Lampard leaving and everything else.

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“But there was a stage when I thought if I’m not going to play here, then I’ll go and play somewhere else. It’s what happens. If one manager doesn’t want you, someone else somewhere else will. Obviously when the summer window closed, I knew I would be at Derby until January anyway, so it was just a case of getting my head down and working as hard as I could.”

Shinnie has yet to feature for Scotland under Steve Clarke, his only involvement since the manager replaced Alex McLeish coming when he was an unused substitute in the June defeat to Belgium in Brussels.

In the absence of both Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney this week, Shinnie is an option once more for the left-back role which proved so torturous for him in Astana, although Celtic’s under-used summer signing Greg Taylor is a more natural fit.

“I’ll play wherever the manager wants, I’d play in goals if he wanted me to,” said Shinnie who is simply eager to kickstart his Scotland career.

“I want to play as much as I can. Naturally, I would like to play in the middle because that’s where I have been playing for the last four or five years at club level. But if the chance came up to play somewhere else, I would definitely do it. If I got the chance to play left-back again, I would take it. I would look at what I need to do better and try and do it.”