Andrew Shinnie has been tipped to “light up the Championship” just as Scott Allan did on his arrival at Easter Road.
The 27-year-old midfielder is poised to become Hibs boss Neil Lennon’s fourth signing, joining the Capital club on a season-long loan deal from Birmingham City.
And, predicted his former Inverness Caley team-mate David Proctor, he’ll prove to be just the playmaker who’ll create the chances upon which top scorer Jason Cummings will thrive.
Having begun his career as a youngster at Rangers, Shinnie spent two spells on loan with Dundee before being freed by the Ibrox club, leading him to be persuaded to join his younger brother Graeme in the Highlands where he began to make a name for himself.
Today Proctor, himself a youth player at Hibs, recalled how then Caley boss Terry Butcher was desperate to see the two brothers united in Inverness. He said: “Terry was always in Graeme’s ear trying to get his brother in. Eventually Graeme managed to convince Andrew, although he probably had other offers, to come up to Inverness and I don’t think he’ll have regretted that decision. There was always a good family atmosphere about the club, they looked after the boys in regard to putting them up in houses or digs, that was a key factor in enticing players to Inverness.
“Andrew took a while to adjust to the physical aspect but he was a really gifted player, great technical ability and intelligent. He’s someone who gets into positions in the final third of the pitch and can see a pass. He will definitely improve Hibs and create chances for others as well as coming up with the odd goal himself.”
Lennon highlighted on the eve of the new season that while Hibs had the reputation of being an attractive attacking side, they had managed just 59 goals in 36 league matches last time out, a total he rightly described as not good enough.
To that end Proctor believes Shinnie will quickly become a valued addition to Lennon’s squad. He said: “There must be a lot of pressure on Cummings to produce week in, week out so Andrew can perhaps lift a bit of that burden off him. He’s the type who will create space and chances for others, something Grant Holt and James Keatings will appreciate as well as Cummings, so Hibs should see an improvement in the number of goals scored.
“Hibs have as good a strikeforce as anyone in the league and Andrew’s presence should allow the front guys to go on and score a lot of goals this season.”
Shinnie’s performances at Inverness were such he became the first Caley player ever to win a full international cap, making a substitute appearance against Luxembourg four years ago, as yet, his only game in a Scotland shirt, although Proctor believes an impressive season with Hibs could easily catch the eye of Gordon Strachan.
Pointing out how John McGinn has already been capped by the national coach despite playing his football in the second tier of Scottish football, Proctor said: “I’d imagine Andrew is probably disappointed only to have the one cap, but you never know. If he can get back playing regularly in a side doing well at the right end of the Championship he might attract some attention.
“The Championship is so competitive, I don’t think there’s much of a jump from the top of it to the Premiership. The key for Andrew will be getting a good run of games. Once he does that then I have no doubt he will light up the Championship just like Scott Allan did when he came back up from England to Hibs.
“They are similar players, they can both see a pass but Andrew is possibly slightly more forward thinking, someone who can use both feet as well.”
After two seasons with Caley, Shinnie opted against a new deal, making the move to Birmingham where in recent months he’s found himelf on the periphery of Gary Rowett’s plans with, according to the Blues’ boss, both Jon Toral and Diego Fabbrini having “moved that No 10 position on a notch.”
Proctor, however, insisted that shouldn’t be seen as casting doubt on his former team-mate. He said: “Squads evolve and change at every football club, that’s a fact of life.
“The creativity and intelligence Andrew has is never going to leave him. The No 10 position is a difficult one, everyone seems to want to play there these days.
“I know Terry was desperate to keep Andrew at Inverness. We had a fair team then, guys like Adam Rooney and Jonny Hayes while Richie Foran was probably in his prime at that time. We had a good group of players, Terry and Maurice Malpas had managed to unearth a few gems from down south and, in my opinion, that side probably laid the foundations for Caley to go on and win the Scottish Cup the other year.
“There is no denying the fact, though, that Birmingham City are a huge club and it was a good move for Andrew. He’d played plenty of games, his stock was high, he’d played for Scotland and the time was right for him to go to England and, I am sure, he’ll have no regrets at having made that decision.
“He’ll be coming back up here not to prove any points, everyone knows his ability,. He’ll be looking to come and enjoy his football again.”
The fact Lennon has gone on the record to say Shinnie is a player he has long admired will, Proctor agreed, not have gone unnoticed by the player.
He said: “Andrew started as a kid at Rangers, he’s played against them and Celtic while at Caley and was at Dundee before that so he’s not going to be fazed by the challenge of playing against the top teams in the Championship.
“He won’t be short in confidence, but having a manager of the stature of Neil Lennon say what he’s said about him will definitely give Andrew a boost.
PROCTOR AIMING TO ‘DO AN EDINBURGH CITY’ WITH EAST KILBRIDE
David Proctor hopes to “do an Edinburgh City” by helping his hometown club East Kilbride win promotion to the SPFL, writes DAVID HARDIE.
The former Hibs kid turned his back on offers from Airdrie and Albion Rovers to join the Lowland League club who, after three matches, sit top of the table with nine points, 12 goals scored and none conceded. The 32-year-old, who also played for Inverness Caley, Dundee United, Canadian outfit FC Edmonton and the Diamonds, said: “I had opportunities to play in League One but East Kilbride are my hometown team and decided to take their offer because of the ambitions the owners have. We are looking to do what Edinburgh City did, to get promotion. The size of town East Kilbride is, we should have a professional team so hopefully it is one step back to take a couple of steps forward.”
Proctor is combining playing with taking a degree in physiotherapy at Glasgow Caledonian University which, he hopes, will see him continue in football long after he’s hung up his boots.
He said: “The ideal scenario would be full-time at a professional club. I probably spent too much time myself on the treatment table, starting with a dislocated shoulder that required an operation when I was a 17-year-old at Hibs. So it would be good to use the experiences I have had as a player to help the next generation stay as injury-free as possible.”