WHATEVER the truth about Graeme Shinnie’s desire to join Sheffield United, it would be foolish to dismiss him and his agent as chancers.
This Blade was at Pittodrie in midweek where Aberdeen beat Motherwell 3-1 and believe me the 27-year-old Scottish international looked like the real deal.
Not only that, the Dons who, like United were operating with three centre-backs, have a left-sided defender in Max Lowe, on loan from Derby County whom, on the evidence of this match, would provide perfect cover for Jack O’Connell. In keeping with Bramall Lane boss Chris Wilder’s policy of having a player to challenge the incumbent in all positions.
Certainly up to Championship level, whether they would make the grade should United win promotion to the Premier League is another matter.
The first thing you notice when walking around Aberdeen is the number of youngsters wearing a Dons shirt displaying No3 and Shinnie on the back. The Aberdeen-born club captain is universally appreciated by supporters, teammates and manager, Derek McInnes, alike.
Watching him perform against Motherwell, who had former Blades Conor Sammon and Greg Halford on the bench, it was easy to see why. Not only an attacking central midfielder with good vision and presence on the ball, he appeared to cover every blade of grass whilst marshalling his team which at times struggled to break their opponents down.
Interviewed in the matchday programme, teammate and fellow defender Andrew Considine spoke in glowing terms of the player who is approaching the end of his contract and wants to play in England with an apparent preference for the Blades if reports coming out of Scotland are correct. Asked who was the best Dons player in training, Considine replied: “I have seen this written a lot but I would have to agree and say that Graeme Shinne, probably more for his consistency. He also runs all day.
“Graeme is a very popular figure around the club and a great captain. His performances on the pitch speak for themselves. He is a huge player for the club and a real role model for the young players at Pittodrie.”
Ticking all the boxes then for Wilder’s well publicised character assessment in the recruitment process. Aberdeen boss McInnes, however, clearly does not want to lose a player who is key to the club going forward.
McInness said earlier in the week: “We are still in the position where Graeme knows what we can do for him. I know how much he loves the club. I would like a bit more clarity on it but we speak every day about certain things and I know exactly where he is.”
Shinnie’s apparent personal interest in United may have been influenced by Blades midfielder John Fleck. Both men were on international duty recently.
Fleck was on the bench for Scotland’s disastrous 3-0 Euro 2020 qualifiying opening defeat in Kazakhstan where Shinnie, converted to a left-back, held his hands up admitting he was at fault for one of the goals. He sat it out in the dugout with Fleck three days later as the Scots’ beat San Marino 2-0 in Serravalle.
Aberdeen fourth in the SPL, went into Wednesday night’s fixture without a home win since before Christmas, relying on away form to keep them in contention for European football next season. They have played in the Europa League for the last five seasons.
In his programme notes, Shinnie said: “It’s our own fault and we need to work our way out of it starting with this game tonight.” He added: “European football has become part and parcel of our seasons here over a few years now and it would be a massive disappointment to miss out on it next season.”
Lowe, on loan from Derby County, couples defensive duties with penetrating runs down the left flank, one of which resulted in him scoring Aberdeen’s fourth-minute opener with a looping ball catching out Motherwell goalkeeper Mark Gillespie.
Derbyshire-born Lowe, the quickest player on the pitch, at the age of 21 has youth on his side. A product of Derby’s academy, he has represented England at all levels between Under-16 and Under-20. After making two Championship and and an EFL Cup appearance for Frank Lampard’s team at the beginning of the season, Lowe, has become well established at Scottish Premier League Aberdeen in their chase for Europa League qualification.
He is no stranger to United goalkeeper Dean Henderson. The Manchester United loanee played with Lowe when both were farmed out to League One Shrewsbury in 2017-18.
FOOTNOTE: Conor Sammon, a loanee from Derby and part of the United squad which finished 11th in League One under Nigel Adkins, the club’s lowest position in 33 years, failed to establish himself at Hearts after immediately joining them on a a free transfer.
Since loaned to Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle and now a season-long stay at Motherwell, the 32-year-old has yet to score for the Fir Park club. It will come as no surprise to Blades fans that Well, in need of fire power late in the match after Aberdeen had regained the lead, did not turn to Sammon.
The Dons, meanwhile, left Manchester United loanee striker James Wilson on the bench. Wilson spent the latter half of last season on loan at Bramall Lane, not one of Wilder’s better decision.
The 24-year-old scored one goal in nine appearances for United. He has managed just three for Aberdeen in 25 appearances in this campaign, ten of them starts.