Scott Allan only needs to look at the fixture list to be reminded he was right to hold out for a move from Hibernian.
A top of the Premiership clash against Aberdeen followed by a Europa League encounter with Ajax is proof of the step up in quality. And that is just what lies in store over the next seven days.
We need to go up there and win to put a marker down for the rest of the seasonScott Allan
Now all he needs to do is find a way to get into the team. Allan has made two substitute appearances amounting to nearly 40 minutes’ playing time in the hoops since making the switch from Hibs.
That followed a protracted signing saga that also involved Rangers, who had three bids turned down by the Easter Road club.
Now Allan is concentrating on simply playing football and he was delighted to get his first 90 minutes under his belt on Tuesday, in the under-20s’ 2-1 win over Dundee in Greenock.
That was his first full match since the first day of the league season, when he was still at Hibs and distracted by the uncertainty surrounding his future.
“I hadn’t played 90 minutes since Dumbarton on the first day of the season,” he said yesterday. “I needed it to get some sharpness back. Training has been high intensity, which keeps your fitness up. But there’s nothing like game time.
“You can’t get match sharpness without playing games.”
He is desperate to be up to speed for the challenge of securing a place in the Celtic midfield. He was signed in plenty of time to beat the deadline for appearing in Europe for his new club.
The thought of facing Ajax at the famous club’s Amsterdam ArenA next week thrills him, as do later assignments with Fenerbahce, who number players such as Robin van Persie and Nani in their ranks. Allan is not in any way miffed by Celtic’s failure to reach the Champions League group stage shortly after he signed.
“I was going to Alloa away last year so the prospect of playing Ajax and Fenerbahce – both massive clubs – is great for me,” he said, with Hibs, his former club, due to face Alloa this weekend. “There are still some good ties [in the Europa League]. When it comes to these games everyone wants to do well. There’s a chance to show how good you are in big fixtures.
“That’s why you come to clubs like Celtic to play big games. It’s disappointing to go out the Champions League but we have three games now that are good for the fans and the players.
“There are a lot of fixtures with the Europa League and cups and I’m sure there will be chances,” he added, with reference to breaking into the side. “When they come along I have to take it. I feel good. I need game time and that’s why I played for the 20s. I need to tick over if I’m not playing games, but there’s plenty fixtures coming up.”
The first of these is on Saturday, when Celtic travel to face Aberdeen in a game many believe will go a long way to indicating whether or not we can expect a title race this season. Allan believes it provides Celtic with a chance “to put a marker down”, which is what they did at the same stage of the season last year.
Celtic’s 2-1 win over Aberdeen last September kicked off a run of four league wins over the Pittodrie side which helped secure a fourth successive league title. Aberdeen eventually finished 17 points behind the champions. Victory, Allan reckoned, will count as an early blow for the Pittodrie side’s hopes of running Celtic closer this season. He described such an outcome as “putting doubt” in Aberdeen heads.
But the player is aware manager Derek McInnes has strengthened his squad again in the summer and Allan expects a formidable test.
“It’s going to be a hard game because it’s always a hard game going to Pittodrie,” said Allan. “In the last couple of years, they have built a really strong squad.
“The bench is strong with guys coming on and they’ve had a good start, similar to Hearts. I’d say the two of them have chances to have good seasons.
“It’s one of those games we need to go up there and win to put a marker down for the rest of the season. Psychologically, when you come up against your nearest opponent, winning those games puts a doubt in their head that they can catch you. This early in the season, it’s a good game to go up there and put something down early. Hopefully, we will go there and get the three points.”
Although he concedes he needs to concentrate on pinning down a starting place at club level first, Allan watched wide-eyed as Scotland, including clubmate Scott Brown, took on world champions Germany on Monday night. It is a stage he would love to grace in future.
“I went to the Scotland game the other night,” he said. “I thought there isn’t much you can do when you are coming up against that standard of player. Germany are world champions and they move the ball well. Scotland gave a good account of themselves and were unlucky not to get something from the match.
“As a football player, if you have any aspirations to improve, you have to watch the guys from the top of the game and take things from them. You don’t realise sometimes just how good these guys are.
“You can take things for granted watching top players these days because there is so much football available on the TV now. Some of these guys are at a different level.
“Those are the guys you want to be playing against and playing in games like that are the ones you want to be involved in. But my first step is to get into the Celtic team, rather than think about internationals.”