Aberdeen wing back Jonny Hayes believes his club can challenge Celtic for second place in the Scottish Premiership.
The Dons trail Hayes’ former club by five points in the Scottish Premiership and, with three of the 17 games remaining for Aberdeen against Neil Lennon’s side, the Irishman believes his club should be aiming to catch the Hoops.
When asked if a top-two finish was possible for his side this season, Hayes, whose side face Ross County in Dingwall today, said: “Why not? I don’t want to be one of these players who trips themselves up by saying they are going to do this or that, but we’re sitting third and why wouldn’t you want to aim for second.
“I’m a realist first and foremost and I’d say first is not a realistic possibility, but there is no reason why you can’t look ahead.
“You always look at who is ahead of you and the best example of that is probably Livingston. They have climbed up the table and if you are not looking ahead then what’s the point?
“There is certainly no resting on our laurels here. For us as an ambitious team we want to kick on and we go into every game believing we are capable of winning it.
“We’ve got a good squad here, there’s no doubt about it.”
Hayes has maintained a low profile since returning to Pittodrie last summer, with yesterday’s pre-match press conference serving as his first interview with the daily press since he signed.
The former Caley Thistle winger secured his return to the club after reaching an agreement to defer his wages from Aberdeen for 12 months.
His gesture was hailed by Dons boss Derek McInnes and chairman Dave Cormack, but Hayes insists his desire to be back at Aberdeen was the motivating factor in discussions prior to his return.
He said: “I always kept a close relationship with the gaffer and coming back had been mentioned a few times.
“It popped up in the window about 18 months before it happened.
“The manager’s influence was a big factor, he sold me on the training ground and I know how ambitious he is.
“So coming back was an easy decision, because it wasn’t going to England and being away from family all the time on the road.
“That was the big thing for me, we don’t have to readjust coming back to Aberdeen.
“That was a big thing for my wife and kids, we have plenty of friends and family up here.
“Knowing we could come back here and settle straight away was a big factor.
“The financial side of it didn’t really bother me, there is a sense of security here because the club looks after its players are staff.
“I just wanted to come back to Aberdeen, so when I spoke to the gaffer and chairman all three of us were keen and came to an agreement quickly.
“I just wanted to get started and didn’t want to miss much of pre-season.
“I knew this club would suit me so just wanted back up the road and to get going.
“Whatever it took to get the deal done I was willing to do.”
It has been a season unlike any other in Scottish football due to Covid-19, but Hayes believes his club has had a solid first half of the campaign and should be looking forward to 2021 with confidence.
He said: “It’s been good. When you look at our league position and stats it has been a good season so far, but we can’t hide from the disappointment of going out of the (League) cup.
“As a whole there is still room for improvement. We’ve got a lot of games to play and another cup competition and as a club and a team we’re ambitious to be the best we can.”