ABERDEEN defender Andrew Considine believes the Pittodrie side are geared to launch a major title challenge to Celtic this season after assembling the best squad he’s seen at the club in his 11 years of service.
The left back was part of the Dons side who were held to a midweek Europa League draw in Macedonia after a disappointing display against FK Shkëndija. Considine – who was awarded a testimonial earlier this year – expects his colleagues to finish the job in the return leg on Thursday at Pittodrie, but he’s set his sights on mounting a real domestic challenge this term.
It’s great for the club to have competition for places
Aberdeen won plaudits for running Celtic close for most of the season, but crumbled in their showdowns between the sides after four defeats out of four and Celtic eventually romped to a 17-point success. But with the additions of Graeme Shinnie, keeper Danny Ward and Paul Quinn, he expects Aberdeen to seriously compete for the title and trophies this term.
He said: “I’d say this is the strongest squad we have had in my time here. There is strength in depth and the young boys are a year older as well. We’ve got a lot of experience as well so there’s a lot of talent in this squad.
“The target has to be silverware. That’s a must. Apart from that, we want to narrow the gap on Celtic and really push them down to the wire. We want to do better in the games against them this season.
“I wouldn’t say it was a psychological thing. I don’t know what it was. We just made the occasional mistakes here and there that we didn’t normally do each Saturday, It’s hard to say but I’d like to think we will do better against this year. We’ll certainly give it our best shot.
“There was two games against Celtic that were probably defining for us last season. The 2-1 defeat at Pittodrie and the 4-0 game down there. Both games didn’t go for us. It was the same with Dundee, they were a bogey team for us as we failed to beat them home or away. But it’s all behind us. It’s a new season and a fresh challenge and we are all looking forward to it.”
Considine faces his own personal challenge this season with the arrival of former Caley Thistle key man Shinnie. Many Dons fans expected the arrival of Shinnie to signal the end of Considine’s extended run in the Dons side. However, the 28-year-old enjoyed his best campaign for the club last term and grew into that left back role, having previously operated in the centre of defence.
And McInnes handed him a real vote of confidence by keeping Considine at full back in that first competitive game of the season in Skopje, while using Shinnie as a holding midfielder – a role he performed more than adequately. And Considine is more than aware that he will need to perform this season with the arrival of Shinnie.
He stressed: “There’s always been competition. But that’s what you want. It’s great for the club to have competition for places. Graeme can play a few roles but it’s vital to have competition in every position. He was the captain of Inverness. He was in the team of the season and everyone has a lot of respect for him, especially as he is still young.
“He’s lifted the Scottish Cup as well. He comes with a lot of pedigree and he’s a great player. I am delighted he has signed for us. He’s a great guy and we’re happy to have him on board. There’s two or three guys in the team who can play anywhere on the park. It keeps you on your toes.
“Graeme was outstanding in midfield the other night. He played there for Inverness too, but obviously he can play left back as well, so there is competition. There’s room for us both in the side. I guess we’ll need to take it game by game. The manager will decide, but if I am asked to play left back then I’ll be happy to do so as I have always been.”
The Dons looked seriously rusty in the Balkans on Thursday and in the end were happy to take the draw back to Pittodrie after Niall McGinn’s late goal was cancelled out by the home side, who improved hugely in the second half. They know they will need to step up both their performance and match sharpness against the dangerous Shkëndija and especially if they qualify and play crack Croats Rijeka in the second qualifying round.
But Considine has warned his team-mates not to make the mistake of believing the away goal means the job is already done.
He pointed out: “The tie isn’t over, not at all. We saw the other night they are a good team. We have got our work cut out back at home and it will be a tough job. They are a big step up from the Latvian side, Daugava Riga, we faced at this stage last season. They broke through us two or three times in the second half.
“But we handled them fairly well. I thought we defended well and attacked when we could and scored a great goal. We still have a lot to do on Thursday.”