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Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie: Hampden days out like League Cup semi-final are what I came back to the Dons for

The Dons skipper is relishing a return to the national stadium after leading his side to the semi-finals of the Viaplay Cup.

Graeme Shinnie celebrates Aberdeen's 2-1 win at Ross County in the Viaplay Cup quarter-final. Image: SNS.
Graeme Shinnie celebrates Aberdeen's 2-1 win at Ross County in the Viaplay Cup quarter-final. Image: SNS.

Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie says Hampden days out are why he came back to the Dons.

The midfielder played a starring role as he helped his side book a semi-final date with Hibernian in November by scoring the opening goal in the 2-1 quarter-final win at Ross County on Wednesday.

Shinnie is accustomed to playing in semi-finals and finals at the national stadium, and is excited at the prospect of heading back there to face the Hibees for a place in the final.

He said: “Hampden is massive. It is why I came back.

“The four years I had before we had quite a few trips to Hampden.

“My kids and wife enjoy the hospitality at Hampden, so I am sure they will be quite happy.

“We love it as players and it is a great opportunity to get to a final. When it comes round we will all look forward to it.

“They are great games to be involved in. Both teams will fancy their chances and will be well up for it.

“They will fancy it and we will fancy it, and it will have the makings of a very good tie.”

Skipper’s spectacular goal is up there among the best of his career

Graeme Shinnie’s spectacular volley gave Aberdeen the lead at Ross County. Image: Shutterstock.

Shinnie set the Dons on their way to a vital win by firing home his first goal of the season in spectacular fashion.

A powerful volley from the edge of the box whistled past Staggies goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw, and the skipper rates as it as one of the best of his career.

He said: “They don’t all come like that to be fair.

“It is a nice feeling when they go in and you catch it as clean as that.

“It set us on our way. I am delighted we got through the tie and I got a goal.”

When asked if it was as good a goal as he has scored, Shinnie replied: “What do you think?

“I’m not sure I will hit many as clean as that in my career. It is (usually) more like a tackle into the net than anything.

“I hit it clean and it will be one of the best goals I have scored.

“I can’t think of many I have hit like that – I’ll watch it back a few times.”

‘Time to kick-on after back-to-back wins’

Following a tough start to the season, the Dons have now won consecutive games for the first time.

Shinnie hopes the league and cup double over County is a sign his club’s campaign is up and running after a difficult start.

He said: “It is very early days.

“Football is a crazy business in terms of the turnover we have had in the squad from last season into this season.

Aberdeen have beaten Ross County in back-to-back matches in the league and cup.

“We’ve had 13 new players and you don’t get time when you are losing games, and in some games we haven’t played well.

“St Mirren away we picked up a point when we were horrendous in the game. We still managed to pick up a point that could be crucial come the end of the season.

“These two wins, back-to-back, will hopefully turn us in the right direction and to kick on.

“We are coming together now. There is no excuses of gelling, because you don’t get away with that anymore.

“It is about time we kick on and hopefully these two games will see us turn things around.”

Captain’s praise for mental strength of his side

Nicky Devlin celebrates Ester Sokler’s second goal on Wednesday. Image: Shutterstock.

The Dons captain believes Wednesday’s hard-earned win at the Global Energy Stadium epitomised the fighting spirit in Barry Robson’s squad.

Shinnie and his team-mates stood firm in the face of late pressure from a desperate home side trying to force extra-time came.

He said: “Wednesday night shows the mentality we have got.

“They threw everything at us at the end, which was a frustration of mine on the pitch, because we gave away too many fouls in areas where they could put balls into our box.

“That brings a bit of pressure with the crowd getting into it without them having any clear-cut chances, so it was frustrating.

“For the three new boys at centre back, they dealt with long balls very well and at the end they were under pressure.

“They have an understanding now of what they are going to come up against.

“They don’t get more direct than Ross County because they like to put pressure on you, with long throws and balls into the box.

“It is good they’ve had a couple of games to deal with that while also showing their quality on the ball.”

Travel has given squad chance to bond

Aberdeen’s goalscorers at Ross County, Ester Sokler, left, and Graeme Shinnie. Image: SNS.

Winning back-to-back matches following a difficult Conference League group stage opener at tournament favourites Eintracht Frankfurt has been welcomed by the Dons support.

But the demands continue to come Aberdeen’s way as they turn their attention to another road trip with Saturday’s league game against Rangers at Ibrox next on the schedule.

Training sessions have been a luxury the Dons have not enjoyed on a regular basis due  to their schedule, but Shinnie believes he and his team-mates have been able to bond thanks to their constant travelling.

He said: “It has been a hectic period with travelling and everything else.

“The Frankfurt game probably came at the perfect time for us as it was a European game and a lot of boys who have come in have played European football and are more used to that than the Scottish game.

“That kicked us on and Ross County was a different test and it will stand the boys in good stead going forward.

“Rangers is another tough game, but we need to rest and travel again on Friday. Off the back of two wins, we are looking forward to the game.

“The only good thing about the travelling is the team are together a lot and that is helping create a good team spirit.

“We won’t use it as an excuse. We will use it in a way where it keeps everybody together.

“We have 13 new players and it lets us get together and gel. It has been good.”