Andrew Shinnie has revealed he turned down the chance to return to the Scottish Premiership because he’s relishing a title challenge with Hibs.
The former Inverness Caley midfielder has clinched a season-long loan deal at Easter Road, having fallen out of favour with his current club, English Championship outfit Birmingham City.
Having spent part of last season out on loan with Rotherham United, the 27-year-old realised that once again he’d find game time with the Brummies and is now looking to kick-start his career as he goes straight into Neil Lennon’s squad for tomorrow’s Championship clash away to St Mirren.
And he immediately set his sights on helping the Capital club win promotion at the third time of asking, revealing that Easter Road was a ground he enjoyed playing at when he was with Caley.
Shinnie was re-acquainted with the stadium when the Blues played a pre-season friendly in Edinburgh only a few weeks ago and that, along with the discussions he had with Lennon, persuaded him to ignore the approaches of Premiership clubs.
He said: “There were a few offers in the top division I could have taken, but the manager showed how keen he was to bring me here. Hibs is one of the top clubs in Scottish football, they shouldn’t be in the Championship.
“They’ve been down here for a couple of years and need to get back to the top flight.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never been involved in a title race or trying to get promotion, so that was a factor.
“At Inverness, little Inverness, we never once thought we could push Celtic. We gave it a good bash – we were second for a good while – but I’m not at a club expected to win the league and I’ve not been part of that. I can’t wait.”
Shinnie believes he will thrive under the pressure of Hibs being favourites to take the Championship title, admitting it’s a different scenario to the one he experienced at Birmingham.
He said: “They are a massive club in the Championship and, although they could have got a play-off position last season, mid-table has been considered a good end to the season.
“But you don’t want to go into a campaign thinking ‘we want to get mid-table’. I’m at a team now where the fans expect the title. You need to thrive in that environment.”
Shinnie watched Scott Allan, a team-mate at Birmingham while on loan from West Bromwich Albion, make a success of returning to Scotland with Hibs and he hopes treading a similar path will be the spark he needs, admitting the last couple of seasons have proved to be frustrating.
He said: “The last time I enjoyed my game was probably not last year, but the one before. Lee Clark was the manager at the start of the season and I wasn’t featuring much, but Gary Rowett came in and pitched me straight into the derby against Wolves live on Sky. From then on, we went from second-bottom to tenth and I played 30-odd games. I was loving it and enjoying it.
“I played some of the best football of my career and I signed a new contract last summer. But since then I haven’t had much of a chance. But that’s football, he brought others in ahead of me and I struggled to get a chance to show what I can do.
“Once you are playing well you get into a rhythm where you are in the zone, you train hard and you are ready for matches. When you are in and out of the team, once every three or four weeks, you think ‘I need to have a stormer here or I’m out’.
“One minute you are flavour of the month, then somebody is ahead of you. It is ruthless, football. If someone gets in ahead of you then it’s a struggle to get back in. You need to accept that and get on with it.”
Shinnie isn’t the first Scottish player who have gone south only to find the going tough but, he insisted, he’s retained full belief in the abilities which won him an international cap.
He said: “Up here it’s less difficult to get a game. English clubs have more money and competition is tougher.
“Playing well up here and you are almost guaranteed to be a starter. But down there, unless you are 100 per cent bang at it, there’s not always a place in the team.
“Managers can throw you on the backpit and then that’s you out and unless you’re training really well, it’s hard to get back in. In Scotland squads aren’t as big and it’s easier to get a game.
“A lot of players down there can be harshly treated, but that’s just the way it is.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve failed. I don’t know how you determine failure down there unless you’re going for the championship. First year I played out of position a few times and didn’t play much then I played pretty much every week my second year.
“The next season I didn’t play as much, went out on loan, the manager was sacked and the new manager didn’t fancy me so it has been up and down a bit I suppose.
“It hasn’t been a success, but I wouldn’t say it’s a failure.
“Scott Allan was really similar to me. He came on loan to Birmingham but didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do.
“Once the manager doesn’t fancy you, then you’re struggling. Hibs were a good option for him, he did really well, moved on to Celtic and back into the Championship.
“It worked out well for him and hopefully it can work out well for me. Hibs were a great option for me.
“Neil Lennon was also a factor. You want to play under the best managers and those who have managed at a high level.
“He is a high profile manager with experience of managing high profile games at massive clubs such as Celtic.
“He has been in the Champions League group stages and won titles. I chatted to him and what he had to say is what I wanted to hear and it made my choice easy.”
Shinnie, who began his career with Rangers and spent two spells on loan at Dundee before joining his younger brother Graeme in Inverness, insisted he’ll be ready if called upon tomorrow, saying: “I’ve had a good pre-season under my belt. I was involved a lot with Birmingham, so I’m ready.
“I had a few options, but Hibs area club I’ve always admired. I always enjoyed playing here and it I was here in pre-season with Birmingham, which reinforced it, as did my discussions with the manager. It just seemed like the right choice.”