BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Andrew Shinnie has admitted his contract situation was a factor in him making a move to Charlton Athletic in the middle of last month.
The 31-year-old won back-to-back promotions at Luton Town as they reached the Championship.
But Shinnie, who is due to be a free agent next summer, was not prepared to risk his game time being majorly restricted this season.
The former Scotland U21 international, born in Aberdeen, left the Hatters with glowing praise from boss Nathan Jones.
Jones, who was professional development coach at the Addicks until he quit for Brighton in 2013, has made it clear he didn’t want Shinnie to leave.
“Shins has been wonderful for us,” said the Luton chief. “We laid out a plan for him, but it’s a different world now and I understood why he made the choice.”
Shinnie made 16 starts in the Championship last season – with 23 appearances in all competitions.
“My thought process was initially that I’ll just work hard and force my way into the team because I knew I wasn’t far away,” he told the South London Press. “If come January I’m not playing I’ll look for options then.
“But the more I thought about it, I thought my game time would be limited. I spoke to the manager a little about it. He said I would get game time but I wasn’t sure how much – maybe a game here or there, which I didn’t really want.
“I told my agent to see what was out there. When he told me Charlton was available it was too good to turn down.
“I played against Charlton a few times and I loved playing at The Valley, although I got sent off there. I knew they were a hard team to play against when the fans are behind them. They ended our unbeaten run when we were in League One.
“That [my contractual situation] was massively on my mind as well. As much as I wanted to stay at Luton – in terms of the success we’d had and I enjoyed it – I didn’t want to waste a season out of my career.
“Getting game time and playing hopefully 30-35 matches will stand me in good stead at the end of the season.”
Jones revealed that Shinnie took a 50 per cent pay cut when he first signed for the the Hatters.
The former Rangers youngster had won the Scottish Championship in 2017 during a loan with Hibernian and was contemplating a return.
“I knew Nathan from when I’d played against Brighton in the Championship,” said Shinnie. “He does a presentation for every player – where he sees you fitting in the formation he likes to play.
“He said: ‘I improve every player I work with’. Which he does. He said: ‘I can improve you a lot’.”
Shinnie lost his place in the Hatters side in the run-in to their 2017-18 League Two campaign as they finished runners up.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the right place to stay but Nathan said he recruited me more for League One really,” explained the former Birmingham man. “He said that he got me in at League Two but he recruited players then for League One and the Championship.
“Even though I wasn’t playing he told me he wanted me there next season and that I’d be a main player. It turned out that way.”
Shinnie moved out of his normal number 10 role to play on the right of the midfield diamond.
He won the Players’ Player of the Year award, scoring five goals in 47 appearances.
“It was a hard decision to leave,” said Shinnie. “I could’ve stayed and tried to fight for my place. I was comfortable in my life – I had a nice place with my missus near the training ground.
“But I enjoy my life when I’m playing football. Charlton was too much of a lure to turn down. It’s been a great decision so far.”
The challenge is promotion for the Addicks. Simple to state, not so easy to deliver.
Tomorrow’s opponents Ipswich finished 10th last season following relegation from the Championship. Big clubs at this level don’t always bounce back instantly.
“Sunderland were in League One when we [Luton] were there,” said Shinnie. “Everyone thinks every year that they will be up there and be top two. But it’s very difficult when you have that weight of expectation.
“At Luton that helped us. No-one expected us to be pushing for promotion, so when we played the bigger clubs I felt like they were under a lot more pressure than us.
“If Sunderland or Ipswich lose a match then the fans are mental. They get on their backs a lot. We believed in ourselves at Luton but people from the outside probably thought we were punching above our weight. We got on that roll – consistent, winning games and the fans right behind us. We didn’t lose at home all season.
“But the gaffer here at Charlton and Steve Gallen have put together a great group of lads. We’ve got a great chance of getting out of this league.”
A maximum of 4,000 fans will be allowed back to matches from December 2 – the numbers depending on what tier an area is in.
Charlton play at home on the day that restrictions are lifted – Milton Keynes the visitors to SE7. Shinnie said: “When I came with Luton and the Charlton fans got behind their team we struggled. They got right on top of us and we ended up losing quite easily there.
“When the fans are there and you’re playing lesser clubs at The Valley there will be a lot of expectation on us to win the game. If it’s 0-0 after 50 or 60 minutes people can get nervous and you feel you have to rush it.
“With no fans you can play a little more freely and with no edginess. At Hibs we struggled at times with that – there was so much expectation to win games. If we weren’t then people were getting on our backs.
“But I want the fans back.
“The Valley was tough to go to when the fans were there – a great atmosphere. I do miss that. It will be great to play in front of them again.”
Pics: Keith Gillard
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