Lawrence Shankland has been pitted against Celtic and Rangers’ top strikers for the Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year award.
Now the Dundee United hot shot wants to go head-to-head with them at the top of the Premiership scoring charts.
Shankland’s stunning season for club and country earned a nomination for the sports writers’ main end-of-season award next to Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard, Rangers counterpart Alfredo Morelos and Hoops midfielder Callum McGregor.
Despite the stream of plaudits Shankland has earned by firing United back to the Premiership, he insists he didn’t see the nomination coming.
But it’s an honour the 24-year-old is determined to prove himself worthy of when the Tangerines’ top flight campaign kicks off.
Asked how he learned of his inclusion on the awards shortlist, Shankland said: “My girlfriend, Nicole, was sitting next to me and she asked me to guess who had been nominated for Player of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers.
“I couldn’t get the fourth one – it was me. I did not guess myself. I think I worked my way through the full squads of Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen – everyone.
“I was surprised. It’s a big award and to be nominated alongside the players on the shortlist is great. It’s something to be proud of.
“It’s good company to keep. They are three great players that I am in there mixing with. To be up for the same award is great.
“I admire Edouard and Morelos as strikers. Everyone knows if you are playing for Rangers and Celtic then you are a good player.
“But when you see them playing in Europe they are just top players. It’s company I’m happy to be “My ambition is to score as regularly as them in the Premiership. Definitely.
“As a striker they will be my competition in terms of going out and trying to score goals.
“I’m expecting those two players to be up there in the high numbers again next season. It’s another challenge for me but it’s one I’m looking forward to.”
Signing Shankland last summer was a coup for United.
After a fruitful season at Ayr United, the striker had been linked with a move to England.
However, after a stunning first campaign at Tannadice – in which he also won two Scotland caps and scored one goal from his first call-up – he feels vindicated for having picked the Tangerines.
“It was maybe surprising for some people (that I signed for United) but half the teams that were rumoured were probably not true,” explained Shankland.
“I made a good decision to come here and it’s paid off.
“International recognition was a part of my decision to come to Tannadice. I thought it was something that would maybe come a bit later in the Premiership but thankfully it came this season and I got the opportunity to play for my country.”
Asked how much he felt he has improved over the course of the season, he said: “I’d played in the Championship with Ayr United but there were question marks over me when I moved to United.
“United are a big club and people were looking to see if I could produce again. Thankfully enough I managed to do that.
“I don’t enjoy proving people wrong. I just like proving myself right. I know what I can do. I know where I believe I can go in the game and I know my own ambitions – which I will keep to myself.
I believe in myself.”
Shankland now hopes to convert Premiership audiences into believers too – and he reiterated his enthusiasm for remaining with United, despite the likelihood of transfer interest from elsewhere.
“When I came I signed for three years and I part of the plan was to get the club back to the Premiership and to be a part of it,” he said.
“That’s been my objective from the off. We’ve done the first part of it, getting to the Premiership and I’m looking forward to the challenge of giving it a go.
“First and foremost the club has been in the Championship for longer than anticipated, so the first objective is to secure our place in the Premiership in our first season back.
“That will be the first thing. If we get that job done early doors then we can start looking up the table.
“But for me, realistically you need to make sure the club is secured as a Premiership club again. It would be a disaster if the club went up and came straight back down.
“If we can get it done early doors then maybe we can look up the table and at sneaking into the top six or even better. We will see how we get on.”