GARY Mackay-Steven tonight makes the first of two return trips to Dundee within the next five days.
The Celtic winger, who pointedly refused to celebrate his goal against former club Dundee United at Parkhead last month, is likely to feel more welcome at Tannadice on Sunday than he does on dark blue territory on the other side of the street this evening.
“I don’t know if the reception I’ll get at Dens Park will be too warm but I’m looking forward to it,” said the ever-smiling Mackay-Steven.
For the 24-year-old and his Celtic team-mates, however, it is serious business in hand as they look to put the disappointment of Sunday’s controversial Scottish Cup semi-final defeat behind them and ensure they remain on course for the club’s fourth consecutive league title.
Celtic can open up an eight-point lead over nearest rivals Aberdeen at the top of the Premiership with a victory tonight and Mackay-Steven admits they cannot afford to let themselves become distracted by their dismay at the manner of the 3-2 extra-time defeat to Inverness at Hampden.
“What’s happened has happened,” he said. “It’s in the past now and we all just want to look ahead. We’re looking to wrap up the league and we know Aberdeen are pushing us.
You can’t dwell on these decisions. Some you get, some you don’t.Gary Mackay-Steven
“It’s in our hands and, if we prepare correctly, we’re fully capable of winning all our remaining games. We desperately want to win the league.”
The cup-tied Mackay-Steven was a frustrated spectator at Hampden, sitting out the action as Celtic’s treble hopes were dashed amid the furore surrounding the failure of the match officials to spot Josh Meekings blocking a Leigh Griffiths header with his hand while Ronny Deila’s side were leading 1-0.
“I don’t like watching the games from the stands and that was a big one not to be involved in,” he said. “I thought at the time it was a handball and obviously I’m seeing the replays as well at half-time. It was a big decision and we didn’t get it. It’s just one them. All credit to Inverness. Throughout the game I thought they played really well. You can’t dwell on these decisions. Some you get, some you don’t. A lot of people could see the handball but we move on and focus on what we can deal with – the league.”
Mackay-Steven did lend his support to calls for video evidence to be adopted during matches to help cut out erroneous decisions on penalty area incidents.
“I’d be in favour of it because more and more times you see big decisions like that one at the weekend,” he said. “Things might be different [had there been video technology].
“It becomes a big talking point when a decision goes for or against your team. Referees have such a hard job nowadays.
“Things happen in a split second. Video technology would probably help them as well. I’d probably be for it but we don’t have it just now so we just have to trust the referee. They do a great job most of the time.
“I think the time it takes to use technology is a price worth paying. Then you know that you are winning or losing fair and square and there aren’t these talking points after games. Right now, we don’t have it and decisions can go for or against you. That’s football over a course of a season. You have to move on and take it on the chin.
“There’s disappointment among our players now but the main thing is we’ve got a game on Wednesday and there’s still all to play for in the league.
“It’s a bitter disappointment to be out of the Scottish Cup but we are only looking ahead now. Everyone is preparing for the game on Wednesday.
“What can we do about it now? Inverness are through to the final, they won the game and, as I said before, they did brilliant over the course of the game. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They deserve to be in the final. We just have to move on. The league is in our hands and we’ve got a massive game on Wednesday. We’re all just preparing for that.”