Here is what he had to say in full after a 3-2 aggregate defeat that condemned him to a losing start to his managerial tenure at the club …
What are your feeling on a catastrophic night in crashing out of the Champions League a priority for the club?
AP: “That’s pretty strong language mate, I don’t know what your definition of catastrophic is but it certainly doesn’t fit my definition of what happened tonight. It’s obviously disappointing we didn’t get through but I can’t fault the effort of the players. They worked their socks off. I thought we controlled the game, had the chance to go 2-0 up and then straight away they scored and we lost a bit of momentum. We just looked a bit tired at the end and lacked a bit of energy to get back into the game. But catastrophic to me means the end. This is far from the end. If you’re suggesting that this is a club falling apart and our season is finished, I don’t see it that way. Yes, it’s absolutely disappointing and Champions League football is a priority here. But, as I said, I can’t ask any more of the players. They did everything they could. We have a league campaign starting on Saturday and our focus shifts to that and getting off to a good start.”
Who do you blame?
AP: “Blame? I don’t blame people. I take responsibility. The responsibility is mine. Again, you are using really strong language that I don’t think merits that sort of view. I can’t fault the effort of the players – it’s not like they gave up or fell apart tonight – they gave everything they could. It was a tight contest and we didn’t get through so we move on to the next game. Big moments in both legs cost us in the end which suggests to me it wasn’t such a demoralising effort. But critical moments change games. In the first game we conceded a goal we shouldn’t have and tonight we missed an opportunity to seal the tie. That’s frustrating but it happens.”
This group once again exhibited a fragility that has stalked them for the past year. They don’t see out games and lost three goals in a tie in which the opposition only had four efforts on target.
AP: "Again, you’re talking about things before my time. All I can look at is these two ties. I thought we were comfortably the better side in the first tie, and I thought we held our own for 65 minutes today, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t take the moments when they were offered to us, and we’ve lost 2-1 in extra-time. I think, considering the changes we’ve had through this pre-season, I’ll take responsibility for the result, but in terms of the effort of the players, I think they showed a real resilience tonight to try to be successful.
You take responsibility, but for many supporters the blame lies higher up the food chain, with the board in terms of not recruiting players in time for this tie?
AP: “I still think it’s my responsibility. I’m the person who has been put in charge. We haven’t got players in. Obviously I haven’t done a good enough job convincing people we need to bring people in. I’m not going to shy away from it. I don’t say that because I’m some kind of martyr. I just think that’s my responsibility. That’s why I was brought in. I’ve tried to be as forceful as I can about what we need to bring in. The challenges we’ve had are well chronicled, but irrespective of the result, we had a really young squad out there with young players on the bench, that’s not the situation we need to be in.
Will you be better prepared for Czech Republic, with a Europa League tie against Jablonec next week?
AP: “If I felt there was a massive gap in what happened in these two legs, I’d be saying we’ve still got a lot to do, but we’re going to get some reinforcements in. Carl Starfelt has obviously come in, Nir Bitton will be back available, Kyogo Furuhashi will come in, so we’ll be stronger in terms of depth and quality, which we need. Guys like James Forrest got his first real run tonight and will be better for it, so I do believe we’ll get stronger and we’ll be in much better shape come the next European tie. More importantly, I want to make sure we start the league well on Saturday [at Hearts] and that’s our focus right now.
How will you cope with the inquest that follows these sort of nights?
AP: “Just by focusing on Saturday. Inquests are inquests, I don’t get to present at inquests, I’ve just get to get on with the job. So, in three days time there’s a very important game for us. We want to start our league campaign in a strong manner. We’ll have reinforcements between now and then which will help, because the players worked awfully hard tonight. So, we’ll need to get some fresh legs in. All we can do is focus on the next challenge, and that is Saturday at Hearts.”
Do you think some people within the club hierarchy didn’t understand how short Celtic were for these games?
AP: “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, I don’t know. I think I’ve been pretty consistent in saying we need more players in. The club is working hard to get players in. We talk endlessly about the challenges we are facing. For our supporters they just want to see us bring reinforcements in that we need. I’ve just got to keep reinforcing my views on it as strongly as I possibly can.
Will being knocked out affect chances of bringing players in or influence quick exits?
AP: “I don’t think so. That hasn’t been outlined to me that is the case. The targets we had yesterday will still be the targets we have tomorrow. We are just working on trying to bring in the same players. In terms of exits I have made my position clear on exits. Anyone who doesn’t want to be here is welcome to go. I am not going to waste too much time thinking about that.
Can you explain why you went with Scott Bain over Vasilis Barkas?
AP: “Scott has been training well and I just felt that, after the weekend game, that with such a young back four they needed a strong voice behind them. Scott provides that, he is very vocal and he doesn’t mind leading from back there. Barky is a different kind of personality, he is a bit more quiet and reserved. I just felt we needed that tonight, knowing that playing away from home there are going to be times when they are going to be a little bit under pressure and need that encouragement. To be fair I think they held out well. We were not under pressure that much, particularly during the 90 minutes.”
Linked with Joe Hart?
AP: “Again we have been linked with so many people and that’s a frustrating bit with me. I would rather be talking about people we brought in rather than people we have been linked with.
Did you get enough out of Odsonne Edouard?
AP: “He worked awfully hard and gave everything he could. It wasn’t an easy night for him. We knew that he would have to lead the line for us a little bit. Look, it’s one of those where if we get that second goal and win the game everybody looks at the performance in a different light. Unfortunately that’s the nature of football. You lose a game and people highlight potential reasons why we did that. I’m really disappointed and, at the moment, I would rather analyse the game rather than look at each player’s individual performance. What I do know is that I can’t ask for them to give any more than they did tonight in terms of effort. A few of them were running on empty at the end but they kept going right until the end.
How many signings do you need?
AP: “I couldn’t articulate a number. To me, even getting one in at the moment is going to be an enormous help to us. As I have said, we have had a really challenging pre-season. We haven’t had a core group of players together for various reasons. We’ve had internationals coming back late and other players have left the club. The ones we have signed haven’t been able to become part of the group yet. So for me I just have to chip away at it. If we can get one in and then two in then we’ll keep going until we get the squad that I think that we need.
Is it a bigger job than you thought?
AP: “No, not really. I knew it was a challenge. I just had to look at the difference in the player list from last season to this season. It was quite obvious. But I thought it was an opportunity for me because at least I could bring in the players I want. So I wasn’t thinking this would be a position where I’d come in and would just need to tinker with things. I knew we needed to rebuild things. But that’s where I saw the opportunity. Now it’s one of those where I need to shoulder into the wheel a bit further and make sure things get done so we can begin this process of getting this club back to where it should be.”