DEREK McInnes has furiously hit back at the personal criticism aimed at Graeme Shinnie and claimed he wouldn't swap his captain for anyone else.

And the Aberdeen manager made the point that his international players at least turned up to represent their countries unlike so many others.

McInnes has been tipped as a possible replacement for Alex McLeish if the SFA bow to public pressure and change the manager after the defeat in Kazakhstan and under-whelming performance in San Marino.

He too was disappointed with the start made to the European Championship qualifying campaign, he felt Shinnie was made a scapegoat on a night when nobody played well.

And this was despite the player himself admitting his performance has been so poor in the 3-0 defeat that he'd probably never play against for Scotland.

The Herald:

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McInnes said: "There has been a big backlash from the game in Kazakhstan.

“It just shows you, when we are not as competitive as we need to be, we can lose games. The goals we lost are disappointing. I know Graeme has taken full responsibility for his part in the goals and the result.

“It was not his performance or what he did for the goals, it was more his positioning. His positioning beat him rather than anything he did and that probably comes from not having played the position for a while.

“But for Graeme to have taken so much criticism for it has really angered me over the last little while. It is bang out of order. Graeme is guilty of being too honest for his own good. He only played a part on a miserable night for the country. Everyone else played their part. Everyone involved has to take their responsibility.

“The fact we made so few tackles, committed so few fouls, did not show enough competitiveness; that had a bigger part to play for me.

"Graeme is someone who playing for their county means so much to him. I can understand his disappointment that he has not managed to take his opportunity and not showed what he is capable of.

"But in terms of his honesty, his commitment, he would win that fight hands down over any other player."

The Herald:

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And McInnes, speaking to Red TV, added: "For me, by certain parts of the media, he has been unfairly criticised more than any other player. The Scotland performance was a team effort and there should be a collective effort for the disappointing result.

“Graeme will bounce back quickly. He is that type of player. If I could have a team full of Graeme Shinnies I would have them. I would not swap him for anyone.

"He means everything to me and how we want to play. He has got his faults at times, no one is perfect, but he is someone who is so fiercely driven and fiercely competitive.

"If he has been played in the position he has been playing, he would have had a bigger impact on the game than maybe some others.

“For me he is my captain. The players look up to him. He has to to put it down to a bad day and it happens. He has had more good days than bad.”

Scott McKenna , the Aberdeen defender, at least played in the win over San Marino, while Niall McGinn returns from Northern Ireland duty with two wins and a goal.

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McInnes said: "Scott left Pittodrie after the Livingston game a real doubt for the Kazakhstan game. The way he would have presented himself when he met up with the Scotland squad, it would have been enough for other players to pull out. He put himself forward to play when a lot of other players wouldn’t.

“Every experience is part of the learning curve for a young player like Scott. Losing that type of game would have been a real sobering experience for him, a really tough night for him, but he has to learn to be more demanding of the people in front of him, be more demanding not to be dragged about as a back four because ultimately it came back to bite the defence.

“The San Marino game was a big plus for Scott because that was a tough game for those boys. There was probably as much pressure and tension on that game for a young player than any game he has played in.

“And he has come through that with a clean sheet and a strong individual performance.

“We are looking forward to looking after those two boys after what has been a tough time away with the international set up. But that can happen at that level. Sometimes they come back bouncing through the door like Niall McGinn will, after two victories and scoring a goal and doing really well.

“Other times you need to pick them up again and look after them. My players are fully committed."