Here’s what he had to say in full after a 3-2 aggregate loss that sentenced him to a losing start from his coaching tenure at the club …
What is your feeling during a catastrophic evening leaving the Champions League a priority for the club?
AP: “It’s strong enough language, I don’t know what your definition of catastrophic is, but it certainly doesn’t match my definition of what happened tonight. It’s obviously disappointing that we didn’t manage to qualify, but I can’t fault the effort of the players. They worked their socks. I thought we were in control, that we were lucky to go 2-0, and then they scored right away and we lost some momentum. We just looked a little tired at the end and we lacked the energy to get back into the game. But catastrophic for me means the end. It is far from being the end. If you are suggesting that this is a club that is falling apart and our season is over, I don’t see it that way. Yes, it’s absolutely disappointing and Champions League football is a priority here. But, like I said, I can’t ask the players anymore. They did all they could. We have a championship campaign starting on Saturday and we’re focusing on that and getting off to a good start. “
AP: “The fault? I don’t blame people. I take responsibility. The responsibility is mine. Again, you are using very strong language which, in my opinion, does not deserve this kind of point of view. I can’t fault the players’ efforts – it’s not like they gave up or collapsed tonight – they gave everything they could. It was a close game and we failed to qualify so we move on to the next game. Big moments in both legs cost us in the end, which suggests to me it wasn’t such a demoralizing effort. But the critical moments change the games. In the first game we conceded a goal that we shouldn’t have had and tonight we missed a chance to tie the game. It’s frustrating but it happens.
This group has once again shown a fragility that has stalked them for a year. They don’t see the games and lost three goals in a draw in which the opposition had just four shots on target.
AP: “Again, you’re talking about things before my time. All I can look at are these two ties. I thought we were comfortably the best team in the first tie, and I thought we held on for 65 minutes today, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t take the moments they were offered to us, and we lost 2-1 in overtime. I think, given the changes we have had during this pre-season, I will take responsibility for the result, but in terms of the effort of the players, I think they have shown a real resilience tonight to try to be successful.
You live up to your responsibilities, but for many fans, the blame lies higher in the food chain as the board failed to recruit players in time for this draw?
AP: “I still think it’s my responsibility. I am the person who was put in charge. We don’t have any players. Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of convincing people that we need to bring people in. I will not deprive myself of it. I’m not saying this because I’m some kind of martyr. I just think it’s my responsibility. That’s why I was recruited. I tried to be as forceful as possible about what we need to bring. The challenges we encountered are well recounted, but whatever the outcome we had a very young team there. with young players on the bench, that’s not the situation we need to be in.
Will you be better prepared for the Czech Republic, with a Europa League game against Jablonec next week?
AP: “If I felt there was a huge gap in what happened in those two legs, I would say we still have a lot to do, but we’re going to get some reinforcements. Carl Starfelt has obviously come in, Nir Bitton will be available again, Kyogo Furuhashi will be coming, so we will be stronger in terms of depth and quality, which we need. Guys like James Forrest had their first real run tonight and will do better, so I think we will get stronger and be in much better shape at the next European meeting. Most importantly I want to make sure we start the league well on Saturday [at Hearts] and that’s our goal right now.
How are you going to handle the investigation that follows these kinds of nights?
AP: “Just focusing on Saturday. Surveys are surveys, I can’t show up for surveys, I just have to get on with the job. So in three days there is a very important game for us. We want to start our championship campaign in a strong way. Until then, we will have reinforcements that will help, because the players have been working very hard tonight. So we will have to get back on our feet. All we can do is focus on the next challenge, and it’s Saturday in Hearts.
Do you think some people within the club hierarchy didn’t understand how short Celtic were for these games?
AP: “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, I don’t know. I think I was pretty consistent in saying that we need more players. The club are working hard to bring in players. We keep talking about the challenges we face. For our supporters, they just want to see us provide the reinforcements we need. I just have to keep reinforcing my point of view as strongly as possible.
Will being knocked out affect the chances of getting players in or will it influence quick exits?
AP: “I don’t think so. It was not explained to me, it is. The goals we had yesterday will always be the goals we have tomorrow. We’re just working on trying to bring in the same players. In terms of exits, I clearly indicated my position on exits. Anyone who doesn’t want to be here is welcome. I won’t waste too much time thinking about it.
Can you explain why you chose Scott Bain over Vasilis Barkas?
AP: “Scott trained well and I just felt after the weekend game, with such a young full-back, they needed a loud voice behind them. Scott provides that, he’s very vocal and doesn’t mind directing from there. Barky is a different type of personality, he is a bit more calm and reserved. I just felt like we needed that tonight knowing that playing away is going to be times when they’re going to be a little bit under pressure and need that encouragement. To be honest, I think they held up well. We weren’t under much pressure, especially during the 90 minutes.
AP: “Again, we’ve bonded with so many people and it’s a little frustrating for me. I prefer to talk about the people we brought rather than the people we have been linked with.
Have you had enough of Odsonne Edouard?
AP: “He worked really hard and gave everything he could. It was not an easy night for him. We knew he was going to have to guide us a bit. Look, this is one of those where if we get that second goal and win the game, everyone sees the performance in a different light. Unfortunately, that is the nature of football. You lose a match and people are highlighting the potential reasons why we did this. I am really disappointed and, at the moment, I prefer to analyze the game rather than looking at the individual performances of each player. What I do know is that I can’t ask them to give more than they gave tonight in terms of effort. A few of them were running empty at the end, but they kept going until the end.
How many signatures do you need?
AP: “I couldn’t articulate a number. For me, even having one right now is going to be of great help to us. Like I said, we’ve had a really tough preseason. We haven’t had a core of players together for various reasons. We had internationals who came back late and other players left the club. Those we signed have not yet been able to join the group. So for me, I just have to nibble it. If we can get one and then two, we’ll keep going until we have the team I think we need.
Is this more important work than you might think?
AP: “No, not really. I knew it was a challenge. I just had to look at the difference in the roster from last season to this season. It was pretty obvious. But I thought it was an opportunity for me because at least I could bring in the players I want. So I didn’t think this would be a job where I just needed to tinker with things. I knew we had to rebuild things. But that’s where I saw the opportunity. Now this is one of those where I need to shoulder the wheel a little more and make sure things get done so that we can start this process of getting this club back to where it should be.