NADIR CIFTCI remembers Paul Paton backing him to the hilt during his suspension – and now he’s vowed to return his support to the banned Dundee United midfielder.
Ciftci escaped with a two-match ban for controversially using “excessive force” towards assistant referee Gavin Harris during last November’s League Cup tie with Inverness in the Highlands which United lost in the dying minutes.
The Turkish striker recalls Paton, who will miss today’s Celtic clash after being dealt a three-match ban by the SFA’s disciplinary tribunal earlier this week for spitting, came to his aid to help keep his chin up and wants to do the same to his team-mate whose festive suspension has dominated the headlines in the past few days.
Ciftci said: “Paul’s been one of our best players this season. He has also been one of the best guys in the team at helping other guys out and supporting them.
“That has been important for us – and now it’s time for us to support him. I’ve been suspended myself and I know what the boys were like with me. They tried to keep my spirits up – and that’s how it will be with Pates too – but Pates is also strong enough to be lifting himself up.
“That’s the thing with football. Sometimes you get injured or suspended and it’s easy to get down about it. But the lads help each other and support each other. We’ll continue to do that.”
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United hope to exact a measure of revenge for being hammered 6-1 at Ronny Deila’s Celtic in August and, having lost 2-0 at home to Aberdeen last weekend, Ciftci believes Celtic’s visit could be the tonic.
He said: “It’s the kind of game we need. Last week was disappointing, but this is another big game, another full house, and, hopefully, we can get the maximum out of our own game.
“If we can do that, we can show Celtic how good we are. We also want to show them the last game between us was a one-off. The result that day was bad and the performance was so disappointing.
“You learn from a defeat like that. It wasn’t our best day, but we put it behind us quickly. It’s a completely different time now and we’ve been good recently – apart from last weekend. But we know where our mistakes were against Aberdeen and we know how to fix them.
“If we can manage that, we know what we can do to Celtic, especially at home. The mood is good. We are all excited by Celtic coming here and we want to put right what happened against Aberdeen last weekend.”
United manager Jackie McNamara is seeking his first win against his old club in the hope it will fill his players with renewed belief going into the New Year.
McNamara, a former Parkhead captain, said: “It’s nothing personal about beating Celtic. I think it’s more for the players and what it would do for their belief.
“We know we’ll have to do a lot better than we did against Aberdeen in our last game and hopefully the occasion can bring the best out in our players.”
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