Adam Bogdan may be rooting for Neil Lennon in his bid to lead Celtic to ten-in-a-row, but he is hoping to inflict the pain of a Champions League exit on his former boss when he visits Parkhead with Ferencvaros this week.
The Hungarian goalkeeper is looking forward to bumping elbows – the current alternative to the handshake – with Lennon in tomorrow night’s winner-takes-all second qualifying round knock-out tie having enjoyed his time under the Northern Irishman at both Bolton and Hibs.
Bogdan returned to his homeland to sign for the current league champions earlier this summer following his departure from Hibs, who opted not to renew his contract following the coronavirus-shortened season.
Having enjoyed his time in Scotland, a place he now regards as a second home, he is relishing the opportunity to return so soon, and to meet up again with Lennon, who he hasn’t managed to keep in touch with since his acrimonious departure from Easter Road in January last year.
“He seemed to change his number pretty quickly so I don’t have his number at the moment, because otherwise I would have text him already,” Bogdan said. “He was great to me all the time, when I was back at Bolton and also at Hibs as well, so of course I’m looking forward to the reunion.
“But I’m also looking forward to being back in Scotland to be honest. Both my family and I are missing Scotland and it’s going to be good to be back. It’s just a shame nobody can travel and come to the game, but it’s going to be good and I’m looking forward to it.”
Bogdan has too much respect for his former club to pledge his full support to Lennon’s Celtic in their quest for a tenth consecutive Scottish Premiership title, saying he supports Hibs first and foremost.
“But if Hibs are not going to be contenders in the end, then of course I’m going to root for Lenny and for Celtic,” he added. “Rangers are coming on pretty strongly in the last couple of years, and are producing some good football, and some effective football. But so far, Celtic have always defended their title, and let’s see if they can do it again.”
Tomorrow night’s tie will be played at an empty Parkhead, and Bogdan is undecided over whether that will be good or bad for the visiting team. Regardless, he regards Ferencvaros as the underdogs in the tie.
“It would’ve been nice to play in front of the full house,” he said. “It could be [an advantage]. The atmosphere can be very huge and when you have 60,000 home supporters rooting for you it’s always a big advantage for the home team.
“It can be intimidating, but also it can be uplifting as well. It depends on the team and how you react because some teams can get so excited to play there and rightly so, it’s an amazing venue.
“The fans are not going to be there but the team is still quality and they have a lot of good players, so I think they are strong favourites to go through.”
However, Bogdan also warned against any assumption that Ferencvaros, managed by former Tottenham and West Ham striker Serhiy Rebrov, pictured inset, are travelling simply to make up the numbers.
“They aren’t rookies,” Bogdan said of his team mates. “They know European football.”
Swedish champions Djurgardens will testify to that, having been accounted for in the first round of qualifying in a 2-0 reverse in Hungary last week with both goals scored by main dangerman Tokmac Nguen.
“The last game we played against Djurgardens, they were so happy to play against us when the draw was made, and then we went through pretty comfortably,” Bogdan said. “Our players also have good experience from playing away games in Moscow and Espanyol last season that they drew confidence from.
“We have a good team here. They’ve been champions twice in a row, we have good players, technically, and tactically our coach is really spot on. He pays a lot of attention to tactics.
“We are a fit side, but it’s going to be a big challenge because of the Celtic way of playing, the speed they play at, and the tempo they dictate, especially at home games, is huge. So that’s going to be the big question for us, how to live up to that flow of attacks and always playing on the front foot, and trying to create chances. We have to stand up to that and be disciplined.
“I guess you never really know in European football what’s next because of the different styles of play, and Celtic had a couple of upsets in the last couple of years when it came to the Champions League, so I guess anything can happen. But I think on paper, Celtic playing at home are the favourites for sure.”
Bogdan is expecting to be named on the substitutes’ bench tomorrow evening – he has been No 2 behind current Hungarian national goalkeeper Dénes Dibusz for the first two games of the season – but will be ready if called upon.
“I’m just trying to get my place, which is not easy, because we have the national team goalkeeper, who is also the captain, but there’s a good atmosphere and good challenges for every position here. The competition is big here, and I enjoy it.”
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