LIFE has been going pretty well for Scott McKenna since he departed Aberdeen for Nottingham Forest in a club record £3m transfer back in September.

The centre half has experienced few difficulties settling in at the City Ground. He has established himself as a first team regular in the English Championship under Chris Hughton. He has even been handed the captain’s armband of late.

Now injury free and enjoying impressive form, he is hoping to feature for Scotland in their crucial Qatar 2022 qualifier against Israel in Tel Aviv this evening.  

McKenna has no doubts that Derek McInnes will flourish in an identical fashion now that he too has left Pittodrie.

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The 24-year-old was saddened when he learned that his old manager had parted company with his former club after eight years in charge earlier this month following a disappointing run. 

He came to view the man who handed him his first team debut, who helped him develop into one of the country’s most accomplished defenders, who kept his spirits up when he suffered a heart scare, as a mentor.

McKenna is confident that McInnes, who turned down the chance to take over at both Sunderland and Rangers during his lengthy tenure in the north-east and has already been linked with the vacancy at Sheffield United, is destined for great things in the future. 

“It was disappointing because it was the manager who was so good to me,” he said. “I had such a good time there playing under him.

“I actually texted him to say I had probably forgotten just how many big moments there were in his time there until I saw all the clips coming out on social media in the days after he left. I am just grateful that he gave me the chance to be part of those moments.

“He was a massive influence, just with the way he did everything. He never put me in too early, when I probably would have failed. He put me out on loan at the right times, allowed me to develop and make mistakes away from the club.

“By doing that it meant when I did finally go into the Aberdeen team, it was all plain sailing and I never came back out. That was all down to his timing and the way he looked after me.

“Derek became manager five or six games before the end of the season and I went full time that summer. Even that first summer he had me away with the first team. So right from the get go, he looked after me.”

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Despite winning the League Cup, reaching numerous finals, recording high Premiership finishes and consistently qualifying for Europe, many Aberdeen fans had grown unhappy with McInnes and wanted him removed. McKenna could never understand their displeasure.

He thinks that Stephen Glass, the Atlanta United 2 coach who has, much to the surprise and bemusement of supporters, been brought in, will be doing very well to replicate his achievements.

“You see it already,” he said. “The same people who were calling for me to go have been back on thanking him. It is just the way football is, fans want something and then as soon as it changes they want another thing.

“They probably don’t realise, but even when I was out injured with my heart and that he took me away to all the European games so I could feel part of it.

“I was out injured when they beat Rijeka 3-0 away from home (in 2015), but I was there so I still experienced what was one of Aberdeen’s best European away nights of recent times.

“The team had a great start to the season and then hit a sticky patch around about Christmas and it continued. Ultimately fans just want what is best for their club in that present moment, but sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There is no doubting the job he did at Aberdeen.”

There were times, like when McKenna handed in a transfer request before the Europa League play-offs amid interest from a raft of English clubs in 2019, when relations were strained. But such tensions are commonplace in football. The two men remain on good terms.

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“I think that is the same with every player and manage,” he said. “I probably annoyed him at times, but I would like to think over the period we had a good relationship and a strong relationship. I would still text him now if I ever need anything.”

McKenna doesn’t expect McInnes to be out of the game for long. “I don’t think he is going to have any problems getting another job, that is for sure,” he said. “Not after the success he has had these past eight years at Aberdeen.

“It must be hard when you are in the same place for so long and you set high standards. You look back at the likes of Graeme Shinnie and Kenny McLean going. These are massive players he was having to try and replace year on year.

“It is difficult, but Derek always did a great job with what he had. So you are talking a constant rebuilding job, I think he did great with the cards he was dealt with. Who knows? A fresh challenge might give him the platform he needs to prove himself all over again.”

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McKenna has played under more managers at Forest than he did at Aberdeen. He was signed by Sabri Lamouchi, but the Frenchman departed the month after he arrived in the East Midlands and was replaced by Hughton. He has enjoyed working under the former Republic of Ireland full back.

“When Chris came in it hadn’t really been working,” he said. “At first, it was all about making the squad hard to break down. In the last couple of months he has tried to evolve us. It has been about playing further up the pitch with more attacking play. I have been impressed.”

McKenna has relished the challenge of playing against different strikers. He thinks he will be well placed to cope with facing the likes of Eran Zahavi of PSV or Munas Dabbur of 1899 Hoffenheim if he gets the nod to play against Israel this evening as a result.

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“In the last three games I have played Lucas Joao of Reading, Teemu Pukki at Norwich and I played against Ivan Toney of Brentford at the weekend,” he said. “They are all tough strikers but every weekend you come up against something different. That is a challenge in itself.

“When you come up against the top ones and they are getting real good quality service from those around them they can really punish you.”

McKenna added: “Zahavi is very good. He is very intelligent the way he gets into wee pockets of space. So he is difficult to mark and whenever he gets the chance to shoot nine times out of ten he will hit the target, if not score.

“I think it probably is good we have played them so much because we know them inside out now but at the same time they will know everything about us so we will just need to be sure that when we go out on the park we cause them more problems than they cause us.

“We will need to try and out smart them and hopefully out play them. But it is funny to play against the same international team so many times.”

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