Jonny Hayes on "toughest fixture" in Scotland ahead of Celtic Park return

By John McGinley

July 30, 2022

Jonny Hayes was never what you would describe as a first-team regular at Celtic but still managed to make his mark at the Bhoys in a three-season spell.

Winning three league titles and a few cup competitions in addition, he lived out his boyhood dreams as a utility player at the club, also scoring a famous derby goal away to Rangers at Ibrox.

Tomorrow it’ll be all business on a return to Celtic Park, lining up with an ambitious Aberdeen squad that is aiming for a far higher finish in the Scottish Premiership this season compared to last.

Jonny Hayes was a Celtic hero at Ibrox in September / Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Hayes recognises a visit to the champions is the toughest task a team can face on an opening day but is coming to Glasgow with the intent to win.

Speaking to Aberdeen’s official website, the winger said: “It’s a very different test on Sunday and we’re all aware of that. No disrespect, but a couple of the teams we’ve played in the League Cup are part-time where now, we’re going away to the team that are the champions. That’s probably the toughest fixture in the calendar on paper.

“Saying that, there’s no better way to start the season than by going to Celtic Park, playing in a full stadium and taking on one of the biggest challenges. I know some people talk about these games being a free hit, that you expect to lose and anything you get is a bonus, but I hate that mentality and it certainly isn’t a way of thinking that’s good enough for Aberdeen Football Club or for the fans. We go into every game to win. Of course, you can’t win every game, but that’s our intention as we get out on the pitch.

“Playing Celtic is a great way to start any season and for the new boys, especially the ones who haven’t played up here before, it’s a great baptism and a good way to quickly understand some of the challenges they’ll face up here. If we could go there and win, it would be a great boost at the start of the season.”

Hayes, now 34, remains a crucial part of the Aberdeen team and has been in lightning form in the early stages of their season.

He’s already registered a goal and four assists across the Dons’ four victories in the Scottish League Cup group stages and will be a danger man to contend with tomorrow.

Whoever starts at right-back, whether it’s Anthony Ralston or Josip Juranovic, will have to contend with his sharp, aggressive runs. If the Dons successfully use him as an outlet, we know he can use space to good effect.

Nonetheless, it’s a challenge Celtic will be expected to handle comfortably as supporters eagerly await Ange Postecgolou’s bigger and better promise from the end of last season.

In other news, Disappointment for Celtic hero in management debut.