CELTIC captain Scott Brown claims Aberdeen’s title challenge has been “bummed up” and believes the Pittodrie club have still to face the biggest test of their credentials as potential Premiership winners.
A home win against Motherwell tonight would put defending champions Celtic back to the top of the table, one point ahead of Aberdeen with a game in hand.
Derek McInnes’ men dropped points and conceded goals for the first time in nine league outings last Saturday when they drew 3-3 with Dundee.
Brown regards the Dons as a genuine threat to Celtic’s bid for a fourth consecutive domestic crown but is confident he and his team-mates can start to turn the screw as the title race approaches the home stretch.
“It has been a good challenge,” said Brown. “Everything has been going well for Aberdeen but they still have 16 games left to go, so we’ll see if they can go all the way.
“The run we have been on isn’t far off the one Aberdeen have been having but nobody is bumming us up the way they are bumming Aberdeen up. But it’s different because we are expected to go on that kind of run and Aberdeen aren’t.
“It’s a good thing for Aberdeen and not so good for us but hopefully by the end of the season we will have kicked on and held that first spot. Of course (it is a serious challenge), you’ve got to think that. They will be four points behind us if we win both our games in hand. We are halfway through January now, so it is a great challenge from them. Hamilton and Dundee United have been doing really well as well, but we haven’t heard too much about them, it’s all been about Aberdeen.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“Last weekend was a good one for us with Aberdeen dropping points after we won 2-0 at Hamilton. We played some great football and created a lot of chances. We are looking like the team we were a few weeks ago when we were on a great run.
“We’ve now got the chance to go back to the top of the table and we need to take it and go on from there. If we get to the top, hopefully that will be us until the end of the season. We want to show how good we are to the other teams in the league. We want to put our foot down, play good attractive football and also get the three points every week.”
Brown, meanwhile, has revealed he played a part in Celtic’s signing of Gary Mackay-Steven on a pre-contract agreement when he was asked by manager Ronny Deila for an assessment of his Scotland squad colleague. The Dundee United winger will join the club in June, unless Celtic agree to pay £250,000 to get him during the current transfer window.
“The manager asked me what Gary was like as a player and what kind of guy he is,” said Brown. “He is quiet and very focused on playing football. To come to a club like Celtic, he’ll know we want to win things and he’ll want to do that as well.
“He is a great player. He came into the Scotland squad and you could see in training he’s got pace and can beat a man. He’s got a bit of skill as well and has a final ball. Any team would be delighted to have him. Whether we get him in January or at the end of the season, he will be boosting our squad.
“I’ll speak to him before he comes to the club. I’ve met him a few times in Edinburgh because he stays there as well. He stays about five minutes up the road from me, so hopefully he can be my driver to training!”
Brown does not believe Mackay-Steven’s performance levels will be adversely affected for the rest of the season if he remains with United.
“You always give 100 per cent, even if you are playing against the team you are going to be signing for,” said Brown. “I was in that situation with Hibs just before I went to Celtic.
“You are looking forward to joining the club you’re going to, but you want to do well for the club you’re at as well. He might even give more against us than you’d expect, just to prove that he hasn’t downed tools.
“Hopefully he doesn’t do what I did, though. I managed to score against Celtic in my last game for Hibs with what I think was the only headed goal of my career. The Hibs fans were still brilliant with me and I hope the Dundee United fans are the same with Gary.”
As Brown keenly anticipates the arrival of Mackay-Steven, he admits to concern over the potential effect of Kris Commons’ departure from the club with uncertainty still surrounding the immediate future of Scotland’s reigning Player of the Year who is out of contract at the end of the season.
“Kris is going to be missed if he does go,” said Brown. “He scored over 30 goals last season and it’s hard for anyone to do that. But fingers crossed, anything can happen. We’d love him to stay but that’s between the gaffer, Peter Lawwell and Kris. If it doesn’t work out, everyone at the club will be gutted to see him go. He’s a good character and a good guy around the changing room. We’d definitely like to hold onto our experienced players like Kris. Hopefully he will stay and we still have a glimmer of hope that he will.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS