Lawrence Shankland remains unproven at the top level of the domestic game.
But Mark Reynolds insists that shouldn’t stop him leading the line for Scotland in the Euro 2020 play-offs.
Dundee United hot-shot Shanks has notched an incredible 127 career goals to date – including 25 in 26 games this term.
However, the 24-year-old has scored just three times in 26 appearances against Premiership opposition.
Today’s live TV Scottish Cup clash between United and Hibs offers the recent Scotland call-up a platform to add to his top-flight tally.
But whether he bags a hat-trick or draws a blank, Tangerines skipper Reynolds reckons his value is unquestionable – for country as well as club.
“I’d have absolutely no qualms about Lawrence playing for Scotland in the play-offs,” said Reynolds.
“He can only beat what’s put in front of him and he’s done that at every level he’s played at so far.
“It’s not as if he’d be going into these games as an unknown quantity.
“He’s scored for Scotland. But I think more than that, he’s been involved in that squad and, when you’re there training with those guys, you get found out very quickly.
“If you’re not up to it, not making the runs, not holding the ball up, the guys there will know and the manager will see it.
“With Lawrence, boys I’ve spoken to have said he fitted right in and didn’t look out of place, which is high praise coming from some of them.”
Shankland tried and failed to make the breakthrough at Aberdeen, while Reynolds was a first-pick centre-half at Pittodrie.
But like the boys in the Scotland squad, the 32-year-old has nothing but plaudits to offer for the way Shanks bounced back from his Dons disappointment.
“Shanks was good at Aberdeen. Very good,” Reynolds pronounced.
“But he was a young boy at the time. People forget it was his first time living away from home.
“He’d never lived by himself, he’d never cooked for himself. He’d always been with his mum and dad.
“That lifestyle change is hard, to go up there and not have anybody, to have to rely on yourself to do everything. Then try to compete in a very, very strong Aberdeen team.
“He was trying to get Adam Rooney out of the team. It was hard for him. But in training he was good.
“I remember saying to a few of the boys when Aberdeen let him go: ‘I think that could be a decision we could regret, because he’s got everything’.
“But sometimes with guys like Shanks, you need to let them go and then either ‘man up’ or chuck it.
“Lawrence obviously realised: ‘OK, it never worked there. But I can still do something’.”
Whether Aberdeen regret letting Shankland leave, as Reynolds suggests, is worth debating.
It seems unlikely there is no discomfort at Pittodrie over their former player’s rise, though the form of Sam Cosgrove will have greatly eased Granite City minds.
“It’s one of those ones – hindsight’s a great thing,” said Reynolds.
“But I don’t think Derek McInnes regrets it. It’s not as if Aberdeen never signed Shankland then struggled or it was all downhill. Aberdeen are still a very good side.
“I think it’s that decision – to let him go – that was the making of him. It’s credit to Shanks that he got his head down, worked hard and got fitter and stronger – and he still is.”
United, too, are getting better as the season goes on.
Today will offer the runaway Championship leaders their stiffest test of the season.
But Reynolds knows chatter of cup shocks doesn’t always translate into the real thing.
“There’s always talk about momentum and I think we’ve managed to get that,” he said.
“But in cup competition that goes out the window. Hibs are still the Premiership team.”
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