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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Robbie Hanratty

Jonny Hayes opens up on Aberdeen longevity as he gives youngsters advice

Jonny Hayes insists Celtic have just been "better" than Rangers and denied the stigma that Aberdeen will raise their game when the Light Blues come to town.  Barry Robson's Reds have received criticism for their failure to turn up against Celtic after being thumped 6-0 last time out, which took their tally without a victory over the Hoops up to 23 matches in all competitions. Whereas, Aberdeen aim to get their Scottish Premiership campaign back on track as they welcome Rangers to Pittodrie on Sunday having won two of the previous three meetings between the sides.  But Hayes reckons the differing records aren't through the lack of trying and instead because Celtic have been a more dominant team than their Glasgow rivals for the past six years. He said: “It doesn’t matter who we play. Whether it is Motherwell, St Mirren, Rangers, Celtic - we want to win games. It doesn’t make any difference to me personally. Put the shoe on the other foot and say Celtic have been better than Rangers for the last five or six years. We prepare the same in terms of wanting to win the game. We don’t try to get a draw or worry about the next game. “We want to win every game whether that is PAOK away, Rangers at home or St Mirren away. We are realistic enough to know that is not always going to happen but there is no point being involved and wanting to push yourself if you don’t want to win every game. Winning is the best part of football and is what makes you successful. It is what we preach to the younger kids as well – it is about winning regardless of the opposition." Asked if Rangers are the perfect opponent as the Dons attempt to bounce back from that humiliating Parkhead defeat two weeks ago, Hayes replied: “From the outside looking in it is probably the ideal game but for us it is just another game. We are looking forward to getting back out on the pitch and righting some wrongs. It was an unacceptable performance at Celtic Park and it is a case of wanting to get back on the football pitch as soon as possible to play another game. And hopefully by next Monday or Tuesday we are in a better frame of mind than this Monday and Tuesday.

"I think they will have the same mindset as us. They will want to win the game and the pressure they have to win is the same. You are under so much scrutiny and every detail is examined. It is not just when five or six years ago it was by you guys (press), it is now social media, it is everywhere.

“The game is everywhere and the level of scrutiny that comes with it just adds to the demand and pressure to win games. That is not just at Rangers and Aberdeen – that is everywhere. It is something I enjoy and I think we have a young dressing room that are picking up on that and it is coming from the manager as well."

Hayes, in his second spell at Pittodrie, is out of contract next summer, with his future remaining unclear. However, the 36-year-old rubbished any talk of retirement - even if he has to ply his trade elsewhere. He stated: “No. I still love training and playing games. I understand where we are as we are as we have a young changing room, I get that. “I’m a realist and know that I’m not thinking about next season. I’m thinking about Sunday and after that I’m thinking about the next game. It is the most hectic schedule Aberdeen have had since I have been part of this group. You can’t start thinking about the summer as we have 12 games in the next five weeks. So I can’t get distracted by that sort of stuff. I presume that is the mentality every player has in the changing room. They are not thinking about themselves, they are thinking about the team. And how we are going to perform over the next few weeks." Despite being a senior figure in the Aberdeen squad, Hayes remains one of the fittest at the club and the Irishman believes his top-flight longevity comes down to mindset. And he wants the Dons' promising youngsters to take note.  “No. It is a mindset for me," echoed Hayes. “Physically I feel as fit as I have ever been. I have been there and done it and for me it is just getting into that mindset. For players that haven’t had that exposure it is maybe going to be difficult for them to adjust to going Thursday - Sunday. Games are the most enjoyable part of being a footballer. And when they come thick and fast like that the rest of your life almost becomes a blur. It is recovering and then preparing for the next game. As daft as it sounds I love it and the players are starting to get on board as well now. “The manager is really keen on developing players’ mentality towards looking towards games and nothing else. It is just getting the mind focused on playing Thursday and Sunday. It is the life you have chosen so you get on with it. You can’t sit down and say you are a bit tired today. We will have some players who will want to go on and play at different levels in the game. If you look at the top level of football players are playing 65 to 70 games a season. Players want to be there. To get to the top you have to get that mindset where you can go two, three games a week for 50 to 51 weeks a year possibly."

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