New Red star Josh Parker grateful for Dons welcome

JOSH Parker is confident of coping with any level of abuse from Scottish supporters as it can’t possibly be as hostile as the vitriol aimed at him by his own fans at Red Star Belgrade.
Dundees Thomas Konrad makes a desperate lunge in his bid to dispossess Aberdeens David Goodwillie. Picture: SNSDundees Thomas Konrad makes a desperate lunge in his bid to dispossess Aberdeens David Goodwillie. Picture: SNS
Dundees Thomas Konrad makes a desperate lunge in his bid to dispossess Aberdeens David Goodwillie. Picture: SNS

The on-loan winger got a rousing reception from the Red Army when he came on for the last 13 minutes against Dundee, in stark contrast to the hostility heaped on the player in his last appearance as substitute for the Serbia SuperLiga team.

He was jeered on to the pitch by 40,000 of his own supporters who historically have a fearsome reputation, hardly surprising when you consider they can count assassinated Serbian warlord Arkan as a previous leader of their Ultras.

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They continue to wield the sort of influence on the club that is unthinkable here and made it clear Parker was no longer welcome following the recent Europa League defeat by Kairat Almaty.

Aberdeen were also subsequently eliminated by the Kazakh side but they look like benefiting from what happened in the previous round with Parker the victim of a media-inspired campaign to hound him out.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes was happy to snap up a player he first tried to sign when still in charge at St Johnstone and even on this brief outing he looks a good addition to an already-strong squad.

For now, Parker is just relishing life in Scotland, helped by the instant reaction of the Aberdeen supporters as he admits: “I’m used to a louder crowd but the reception I got was second to none.

“You will certainly never know a harsh crowd until you go to Belgrade. Nothing can compare to the pressure there. You feel it from the manager and the people who run the club.

“They feel the pressure from the fans. It’s almost like they run the club, even though they don’t.

“We played Kairat and in most of the newspapers I was one of the best players. In one of the biggest newspapers, the guy didn’t like me and he said ‘Parker shouldn’t play for Red Star’.

“In the next game I played, the whole stadium was whistling me – 40,000 people. That whistling was probably the worst experience.

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“Once you have been through that kind of thing you feel you can handle anything. One million per cent.

“Coming here, I feel I have a new lease of life because I’m playing with freedom. I know the fans will say I’ve played bad if I do but they are not going to boo me and say I should leave the country. That’s how extreme it is, honest.”

Parker’s own honesty extends to freely admitting his career went off the rails after failing to make the grade as a youngster at Queens Park Rangers.

A successful spell in Slovenia with Domzale put things right and McInnes is certain someone he has tracked for four years will make the wait worthwhile

The winger certainly showed in flashes just why that’s the case and nearly set up Graeme Shinnie for late goal as the penultimate part of a sweeping 80-yard, five-man move.

As it was, Adam Rooney’s textbook header in 66 minutes and the Irishman’s clinical injury-time penalty kept Aberdeen’s 100 per cent league record intact.

Now a win away to Partick Thistle next week would set them up nicely for the first head-to-head of the season against Celtic at Pittodrie immediately after the international break.

Two wins would make it their best start to a season since 1984-85, the last time they won the title, and increase their chances of making a serious challenge this time. They look well equipped to do that as this game was won despite the absence of Mark Reynolds, Willo Flood and Peter Pawlett.