ABERDEEN captain Graeme Shinnie believes talented trio Lewis Ferguson, Connor McLennan and Dean Campbell are spearheading a new generation of future Scotland stars emerging at Pittodrie.
The 27-year-old is currently in Kazakhstan with the national side as Alex McLeish’s charges prepare to embark on their Euro 2020 qualification campaign, with fellow Don Scott McKenna joining him in the squad.
And Shinnie is adamant the next wave of players ready to pull on the dark blue at senior level is not far behind.
Ferguson, 19, is part of the Scotland under-21 set-up and has made 36 appearances for the Dons this term, scoring pivotal goals against the likes of Burnley, Rangers and Celtic.
McLennan has been a revelation on the flank and illustrated his potential with a goal in Aberdeen’s 2-0 win over Rangers last week, while 17-year-old Campbell – currently on Scotland under-19s duty in Portugal – also shone in that Scottish Cup triumph at Ibrox.
“They definitely have the potential to make it to the full national team,” said Shinnie. “You look at someone like Lewis Ferguson, and you automatically think he is older than he is because he has been playing regularly from the start of the season.
“Dean Campbell is only 17 and Connor [McLennan] has been doing really well. The future is bright for Aberdeen – and Scotland as well.
“Young lads always show no fear and they have come into the Aberdeen side and just want to express themselves. Connor scores at Ibrox and Dean Campbell starts there – these are massive games we are talking about. But these young boys step up to the plate and deliver the good.
“It’s positive for the manager that he knows he can put them into big games like that.”
Shinnie, meanwhile, has joked that his luck was in after McLeish was in the stands at McDiarmid Park to watch him notch a brace in the Dons’ 2-0 triumph against St Johnstone.
Now the versatile midfielder, linked with summer moves to Rangers and Luton, is determined to dazzle the Scotland boss further on international duty and build on his two caps to date.
“Sometimes the manager [Derek McInnes] will say: ‘the national boss is here, you might want to try to impress him’ or something like that,” smiled Shinnie. “I’m guessing he’s at a lot of Aberdeen games but it isn’t something you think about going into every match.
“Luckily enough for me, he was at the St Johnstone game where I scored two goals! It’s always good to know he is watching and it’s up to me to make sure my form is as good as it can be for Aberdeen and put on a performance for him.
“I was always aiming to get in the Scotland squad, but now that I have been in a few squads I’m trying to enjoy it and strive for even more. Now that I have made my competitive debut – coming on against Israel – I just want to improve every time.”
Shinnie is no stranger to facing Kazakh opponents, having suffered a 2-1 defeat against Kairat Almaty on Europa League duty in 2015. While humidity will not be an issue this time – it is slated to be around two degrees at kick-off today – it remains a testing proposition.
Aberdeen were ultimately unable to overturn the deficit in the return leg and crashed out 3-2 on aggregate.
“It was a really tough game, I’ll always remember the humidity and the conditions were difficult compared to what we were used to,” Shinnie told Aberdeen’s official Twitter account. “It’s a long flight over and it was a challenging fixture.”