Graeme Shinnie: Ex-Aberdeen skipper on his rollercoaster first year at Derby

Shinnie left Aberdeen after four years last summer to sample English football
Shinnie left Aberdeen after four years last summer to sample English football

Graeme Shinnie quit Aberdeen last summer relishing the chance to shine under England icon Frank Lampard at Derby County.

A few weeks later Lampard had been lured to Chelsea and Shinnie soon found himself dumped in the Under-23s by incoming manager Phillip Cocu.

It wasn't exactly the exciting new adventure the former Pittodrie captain had signed up for.

Yet, with the same doggedness that characterises the midfielder's performances, he clawed his way back into favour.

And from suffering the first injury of his career at age 28, to doing the midfield legwork for superstar Wayne Rooney, his Derby career has been anything but dull.

Now the Scotland international hopes to crown a rollercoaster 12 months by helping Cocu's side earn promotion with a late-season surge when the English Championship resumes on 20 June.

"I definitely have no regrets, it's been a good move," Shinnie told BBC Scotland Sportsound.

"It was a fresh start for me in England as I had played in Scotland for nine or 10 years against the same teams at the same stadiums. I wanted to experience different football.

"It's just been tough this season. I signed for Frank Lampard and he immediately left, which was not ideal. And then I was out of favour with the new manager until I eventually got an opportunity and turned it around and got my form right back up.

"I was really enjoying my football and playing in the league then the injury came at a really bad time. I haven't had any injuries in my career and then I go and split my tendon in my hamstring. It put me out for 10 weeks. Trying to get back to form when the team was playing so well was tough.

"I was in and out the team, but in our last game at Blackburn we won 3-0 and I played very well. I felt that was me back to my best, then everything came to a halt because of coronavirus."

'Rooney a joy to play with'

Shinnie, right, is happy to do all the "hard work" in midfield for team-mate Rooney
Shinnie, right, is happy to do all the "hard work" in midfield for team-mate Rooney

Sharing the midfield engine room with former Manchester United and England strike great Rooney has been a revelation for Shinnie.

Rooney's mobility may be on the wane, but the 34-year-old's ability to manipulate the ball remains undimmed and Shinnie is lapping up the education.

"He's unbelievable. It's mental," Shinnie said. "His game management, passing and shooting are top class. He has the ability to control games without using too much energy. And he has a wee Aberdonian kid running around next to him who will hopefully keep him happy by doing all his hard work.

"It's been unbelievable to work with a player like that. The young players especially will gain massively from having him there.

"I'm 28 but still learning a lot from him and where he's been. And listening to his stories is good as well - he talks about Champions League and I talk about Scottish Cup...

"In terms of the standard down here, it is very good. I can say that after playing next to Rooney. But I feel there's many players in Scottish football who could perform down here."

'I've already been booked in training'

Derby began full training last week, after initially returning on a contact-basis, as they gear up for the hectic end to the season.

It came as a relief to Shinnie, who found the novelty of lockdown quickly wore thin.

And he gave an insight into the "strange" experience Scottish Premiership footballers can expect this week when they return to training while adhering to strict government guidelines on social distancing.

"Lockdown was good to get a lot of time in the house with the family, which we don't have usually," he said.

"But as the days and the home schooling went on, it got tougher and tougher. So the training came back at a good time.

"It's been a lot different. On the first day we were tested straight away and were limited to two players per pitch with one coach. It was little passing drills and mostly running. Gradually it went to four players and then to eight.

"We weren't allowed in the building so you were coming up in your car, staying there until you were told, going to the doc's office and getting the swab done. Then waiting in your car again until the coach came and got you.

"We started full contact training on Thursday, which is a lot better. We've been doing a lot of 11v11 games because it's such a short turnaround after 10 weeks off.

"My natural fitness has always been there, but match sharpness is so much different. I have picked up a couple of bookings already in training…

"We are only five points off the play-off places and promotion to the Premier League is massive. It's going to be strange playing behind closed doors and not have that intense atmosphere. It's important we hit the ground running."

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