ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes has pledged that his team will be fully prepared to offer an improved challenge to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership next season.
McInnes was left frustrated again yesterday when, despite a bright performance, Aberdeen slumped to their fourth defeat of the campaign against the champions – Scott Brown’s second-half goal proving decisive for the champions.
I think you credit Celtic because even when they’re not at their best, they still find ways to winDerek McInnes
“We haven’t got the results against Celtic and that’s played a huge part in the outcome of our league campaign,” observed McInnes.
“But we’ll be ready for them next season and we’ll try and improve. Last season we managed to beat Celtic a couple of times but dropped points to other teams. This campaign, we’ve been outstanding against the other teams. We have a really strong record and we have to be pleased with that.
“But when things are tight at the top of the table – and there was a period when things were tight – it is how you do against the teams in and around you that will decide what happens.
“The two games at Pittodrie against Celtic, where our level of performance was good enough to win the games, we didn’t. I think you credit Celtic, because even when they’re not at their best, they still find ways to win.
“But I feel as if I have a bit of Celtic in my team at the minute – that mentality. We have shown that against others, even when we’ve not been at our best. It’s important we keep that with us.
“It’s also important that when there’s a thin line between winning and losing, as has been the case in a couple of games against Celtic, we have to make sure we are the team that comes out on top. It’s not always about performances and talent. There are other factors.”
McInnes was involved in a touchline spat with Celtic manager Ronny Deila and fourth official Brian Colvin in the closing stages of the match when there were several stoppages for visiting players to be treated for cramp.
“My gripe to the fourth official was if players were going down with cramp – and it seemed to be happening when we had moments of ascendancy – you get the player off the pitch,” said McInnes.
“I just felt there was a lot of compassion shown to let them stay on the pitch and it took the sting out of the game on four or five occasions. I don’t think a Celtic team will be time-wasting but certain breaks in the game helped them.”
McInnes revealed he will now field a much-changed side in Aberdeen’s final two league games of the season against Dundee and St Johnstone as he prepares for an early start to the next campaign when their first Europa League fixture will be on 2 July.
“We obviously want to win but there will be some boys who will be rested now,” he said. “We have a short close season before we are in action again.
“These boys have been running since 12 June last year and we will start again in a few weeks time, ready for the European campaign, so we’ll take the luxury of resting down a few and giving them time off.
“Of course we want to win the games, and aim to win them, but there will be opportunities given to others as that rest is important now.”