McInnes says Aberdeen alone can’t topple Celtic

Derek McInnes: Note of caution. Picture: SNS
Derek McInnes: Note of caution. Picture: SNS
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Derek McInnes warned yesterday that it will take more than just a revitalised Aberdeen to prevent Celtic strolling to the Championship for the foreseeable future.

Neil Lennon’s side can wrap up another title against Partick Thistle tomorrow if Aberdeen were to fail to win against Ross County at Dingwall tonight.

That’s despite the Pittodrie club closing in on their highest points tally since the switch to three for a win 20 years ago.

Now in the wake of Aberdeen’s first trophy since 1995, club chairman Stewart Milne has vowed to find the funds to aid their chances of mounting a meaningful challenge to Celtic.

McInnes knows that pledge was made in the euphoria of Sunday’s open-top bus parade when 80,000 fans lined Union Street to celebrate the League Cup final success.

In the cold light of day the Aberdeen manager believes Celtic will remain untouchable in future title chases unless more clubs match Milne’s ambition.

He said: “I think the chairman had to say that in front of more than 80,000 people.

“He is obviously delighted with what’s happening at the minute, from the response from the supporters and the city to what the players are giving each week. We can look ahead with a lot of positivity and confidence but it’s about maintaining the momentum on our side of it.

“However it’s not just our responsibility – it’s up to all of us to try to narrow the gap. We don’t know what the budget is for next season but no matter what it is we know that Celtic will win the league again.

“They would need to have a really poor campaign to even get close to them – which isn’t going to happen under Neil Lennon.

“They’ve got a good manager and a squad that is geared up to win the title.

“Everyone else will be doing what we can to make it as competitive as possible. I am confident we can keep improving. But we can’t be arrogant given our position in recent years. We hadn’t been in any finals or even been in the top six for a number of seasons.

“All we can do is work hard with good players, and hopefully keep recruiting well by adding quality players.

“It would be foolish to make any predictions.”

Nobody knows that better than Jamie Langfield who has experienced as many lows as highs at Pittodrie in the last nine years.

He played in the Dons’ run to the last 32 of the Europa League and five straight top-six finishes under Jimmy Calderwood.

On the debit side he was in goal when Mark McGhee’s side suffered a 9-0 thumping at Celtic Park, the club’s worst defeat in their 111-year history.

That made it all the sweeter when Langfield saved Billy Mckay’s penalty to set up Aberdeen’s shoot-out League Cup final win at the same venue.

He has been blown away by the reaction of the fans to that success and the goalkeeper is determined to repay the supporters for sticking with them through thick and thin.

He said: “Aberdeen have let a lot of people down over the years which is why we want to keep on putting smiles on faces.

“I didn’t expect anything like Sunday but it has given me the hunger to want to do it again.

“The parade was crazy. When we came around the corner and the players started standing up to look down Union Street it was unbelievable.

“When you see how many people you’ve managed to put a smile on the face of it makes you want to do it again.

“I can’t put into words the week it has been. Beating Kilmarnock, when a few people expected us to slip up after the cup final was great and Sunday’s parade just topped it off.

“It’s (for) occasions like this that we’re in the game. I’ve always wanted to achieve something in my career and hopefully there can be a few more to come.

“My head has been buzzing all week and nothing gets you down. It’s stupid things like Peter’s song going off in my head. It has been such a strange experience.

“The manager brought us back down on Wednesday and got us focused on Kilmarnock.

“We certainly enjoyed ourselves but we’ve got another difficult game against Ross County and it’s time to prepare for that again.”

Aberdeen can move three points above third-placed Motherwell by winning their game in hand against County tonight. However, Langfield is well aware they have lost both their league games at Victotria Park and have only beaten County once in five top-flight matches.

“It’s a very difficult place to go,” he said. “But the boys are full of confidence just now, not just because of the final, but after what was a great result against Kilmarnock at the weekend.

“We knew even when we went 1-0 down in that game that we had the boys on the pitch to win us the game.

“We just need to take that confidence into the game against County.

“We are under no illusions. They are fighting for points and we are fighting for points to maintain our position in second place.”

Away from league business, Aberdeen of course have the chance to land a cup double this season, and they will be backed by another healthy following when they take on St Johnstone in their Scottish Cup semi-final at Ibrox next month.

The SFA yesterday allocated the Pittodrie club an initial 20,000 tickets for the 13 April clash, with Saints being given just over 5,000.

Both clubs will be able to apply for more tickets should they sell out their allocation for a game to be televised live by BBC Scotland.

Aberdeen are due to start selling tickets to season ticket holders and shareholders on Thursday, while St Johnstone will begin sales to all fans on Friday.

“We expect demand for tickets to be extremely strong,” said an Aberdeen spokesman yesterday.