Celtic look to turn anger at Dons defeat on Ajax

John Kennedy takes part in the 'crossbar challenge' with Britain's Davis Cup team yesterday. Picture: SNS
John Kennedy takes part in the 'crossbar challenge' with Britain's Davis Cup team yesterday. Picture: SNS
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John Kennedy has noted the glee with which Aberdeen’s graduation to league leaders has been greeted around the country. He welcomes the 
reaction to Celtic’s defeat by the Pittodrie side on Saturday since it provides the champions with “perfect motivation” to rectify matters.

According to the Celtic first-team coach, it is very different when Celtic are sitting on top of the league, as they usually are. “Very quiet” was how he described the level of noise generated by rivals most of the time.

Kennedy was speaking after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Aberdeen, which saw the Pittodrie side overhaul Celtic at the top of the Premiership.

He noted the “frenzied” reaction following the result. According to Kennedy, this outcome was willed by most non-Celtic fans.

Not that he is complaining. He understands that people like to see a changing of the guard, even if he is determined to ensure it is only a temporary state of affairs.

Celtic are now hoping to secure a positive result against Ajax in their Europa League encounter on Thursday as they seek to atone for the defeat to Aberdeen, which Kennedy admitted hinged on “costly errors”.

By the time Celtic return to league action against Dundee on Sunday Aberdeen might have stretched their lead at the top to five points providing they secure victory against Hamilton tonight. The buzz is likely to get only more intense, something Kennedy accepts.

“There’s a bit of frenzy around because Aberdeen are top of the table,” he said. “People are asking ‘are they title contenders? Are they not?’ It’s something new for everybody and everybody loves that. But when Celtic are on top it’s all very quiet.

“It’s still very early in the season,” he added. “There’s still a long, long way to go, and we’re fully confident that come the last day we’ll be lifting the title. It gives us perfect motivation. For us as coaches and obviously for the manager, there’s very little motivation needed.

“We’ll ask the players to use their previous performance, and what’s going on around about them, as motivation. We’ll say: ‘look guys, go and show everybody what it’s all about’. We’ve got a group of boys with a good bit of experience in there, and the players that have come in have shown a great attitude. When we combine that and everything clicks in we’ll be a very good team.”

Kennedy was taking part in a “crossbar challenge” at Celtic Park yesterday against the Great Britain Davis Cup team, who were training in the nearby Emirates Arena ahead of their semi-final clash with Australia.

The Celtic coach managed to hit the target with one of his attempts, despite turning up in what he described as his “dancing shoes”. Now he wants to make sure Celtic can return with interest the volley of criticism they have received since Saturday on Thursday at the Amsterdam Arena. “We had a good training session yesterday, the players have had a day off today – and tomorrow we’re focused Ajax,” he reported.

“The anger is directed at ourselves,” he added.“We’ve disappointed ourselves with the performance, with the mistakes we’ve made and with not creating enough opportunities.

“We have to use that anger as a positive. We use it to motivate ourselves going into Thursday’s game.

“This is a great platform, the kind of game we all want to be involved in and play in. There’s no better game to come around for us than a big European tie against Ajax.

“I think we’ve made some costly errors,” he added, with reference to the defensive lapses against Aberdeen, one of which allowed Paul Quinn to score the winner near the end. “We all know that and we all take responsibility for that. But it’s not a case of us pointing fingers at individuals. Team performances are what win you games.

“That applies defensively, everyone defending as a unit, as much as it does to creating chances at the other end. But, overall, our defending has not been great.”