Collins denies rift with McInnes over ‘clever’ comments

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JOHN Collins has defended his controversial analysis of Celtic’s domestic opposition and insists they have not caused any lingering feud with Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes.

The Celtic assistant manager was speaking to the written media for the first time since he provoked a backlash last month with his observation that other Scottish clubs do not have “clever enough players or quick enough thinkers to punish us” in comparison to the standard of teams faced in European competition.

Celtic assistant manager John Collins takes training. Picture: SNS Group

Celtic assistant manager John Collins takes training. Picture: SNS Group

While many observers backed Collins, pointing out he was simply stating an obvious truth, others took exception to his remarks. McInnes was among them, describing Collins’ comments as “disparaging”, “disrespectful” and “a slap in the face to the rest of the league”.

Aberdeen have subsequently opened up a five-point lead over Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership after beating the champions 2-1 at Pittodrie last Saturday.

Collins admits he could have phrased his thoughts differently last month but says the verbal spat was not mentioned when the rival coaching staffs met in McInnes’s office after the match and that he had no issue with the Dons manager.

“Not at all,” said Collins. “People can have their opinions, it’s not a problem. I had a cup of tea with him last week in his office. There’s not a problem between us whatsoever.

“It’s gone, it’s past, it’s history. I said what I said. Some people didn’t like it, but I said it. It’s time to move on.

“What did I say at the time? Would you agree with me? Maybe I could’ve chosen my words better. Maybe it was also about interpretation of the words I said.

“Nothing surprises [in terms of the reaction to my comments]. I’ve been in the game long enough, nothing surprises me. I’m not saying anybody’s too sensitive. Was it a storm in a teacup? It could’ve been. Move on, next question.

“Everybody has an opinion. Not everyone’s the same, everybody’s got a different opinion.”

Collins is relaxed about Celtic’s current position in the Premiership table and while he recognises the strength of Aberdeen’s challenge, he believes it is premature to suggest they are capable of a more sustained title bid this season.

“Nobody’s got a crystal ball – time will tell,” said Collins. “Aberdeen are a good team, they’re well balanced with a good attitude and work ethic. So, they are going to give us a challenge. We’ve got to be ready for it – but we will be.

“I’ve been part of Celtic for a long time as a player and supporter and now a coach. I know what happens when you lose a game like we did last weekend. People talk. People try to blow it up. We have to be realistic and we’ve got to stay calm. It’s early in the season, we lost a game we didn’t want to lose. There’s a long way to go – it’s a marathon not a sprint.

“It’s going to be the same as last year, a big challenge. Aberdeen proved last year they are a good football team and they lasted the whole season, they kept going. They’ve added to their squad. Graeme Shinnie, a very good player. They’ve added a striker and another centre half. They’ve bolstered their squad. It’s going to be a challenge but it’s great having a challenge, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s good for everybody.

“We’re always going to drop points. That’s reality, that’s football. You don’t take your chances, the other team takes theirs and you lose points. It’s something we try to guard against but that’s football. It’s unpredictable.

“Our team is developing. We have new players in the team again. They’re getting used to us, we’re getting used to them. The objective is to try and get better.

“The proof’s always in the pudding, come the end of the season when the prizes are dished out. That’s when you’ll be judged.”