CELTIC embark on another summer bid for Champions League football this week, and as they start on that epic journey which will take in eight matches - all going well - in Sarajevo, Jonny Hayes is just praying that it doesn’t end there.

Scarred by previous chastening experiences in European football, not least of all an exit to Astana while with Aberdeen four years back where the damage was done in the first leg away from home, Hayes is pressing home to his Celtic teammates that taking their Bosnian opponents lightly could spell disaster.

So, while Celtic may still be slightly rusty, they certainly won’t be taking their assignment in the Balkans lightly. If they do, it could come back to bite them.


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“You don’t ever think about having the job done in the first leg because that’s when you get your bum felt,” Hayes said.

“If you go over there and be too cocky you can come back home trailing 2-0 with no away goals.

“It’s a two-legged tie no matter the outcome of the first game.

“You see that all over Europe, what happens when teams don’t take it seriously at that level of competition. If you don’t prepare right.

“I wouldn’t call them strange results, because it’s just one team being more prepared than the other. More often than not they deservedly go through.

“As with previous European and domestic games, we’ll have our homework done. The lads behind the scenes will have watched them many times already, and they will prep us now for the game on Tuesday.


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“The lads behind the scenes do a terrific job, so we will be fully aware of Sarejevo’s qualities by the time of the match.

“European games are always tough. Once you get to that level there’s no easy games.”

The Celtic backroom staff will have earned their corn getting the lowdown on their Bosnian opponents, but Jozo Simunovic – who is Croatian but of Bosnian descent – has also been filling in his teammates on the task that awaits them.

“Jozo has a little bit more insight into that region if you like, and he says they are a good team,” said Hayes. “They won the league by five points, and no matter what league you’re in, to win it by five points is decent going.

“They will be a decent team and they’ve signed some new players as well, so it will be a decent test. But we’ll be prepped and ready to go. It’s a little bit of a step into the unknown, but we’re used to it by now.

“We’ve played so many games in Europe and in qualifiers, we’ve been here, there and everywhere.


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“When I played with Aberdeen, we played a hundred miles from China in a European game, so that says it all really.

“We know we’ll be playing tough opposition, and more than likely in tough conditions as well.

“When we went over to Kazakhstan with Aberdeen we showed them a little bit too much respect. When we got home we should have beat them comfortably, but we drew 1-1 and went out on away goals.

“At Celtic we are expected to win every game no matter what.”

Hayes has been pressed into action at left-back throughout Celtic’s pre-season campaign as Kieran Tierney continues his rehab from a double hernia operation, and he may well be utilised there once again in Sarajevo depending on the fitness of new recruit Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo.


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He admits that he isn’t entirely comfortable with the role having played most of his days as an attacking winger, but is doing his best for the team to adapt to whatever assignment is set to him.

“I’m just happy to be playing football,” he said. “Kieran should be back soon enough, maybe in a couple of weeks. It won’t be a long-term thing with a player of Kieran’s calibre here. I’m just enjoying playing football in whatever position I’m in.

“Playing in Europe can be a little bit more intense, you are more like a defender than a wing-back which is what it can turn into in a domestic game.

“Wingers can come in and out of games. Having a defensive role has helped me with my concentration, knowing not to switch off. Players are constantly talking to me, Kris Ajer for instance has an old head on young shoulders.

“You have to make sure you are in the right position, but communication is key and as long as we keep talking I’m sure any of our players could fit in there.”