BARK TO THE TOP
Barkas says Celtic can launch September surge towards top of Premiership tableby Robert Thomson
VASILIS BARKAS reckons Celtic are ready to launch a September surge towards the Premiership summit.
Neil Lennon’s Hoops ran out easy winners in Dingwall — but they saw the best performance yet from their new £4.5million Greek keeper.
County boss Stuart Kettlewell was spot on saying this was far from a battering, no matter what the eventual scoreline suggests.
During a sloppy first half which required a half-time blast from Lennon to sharpen Celtic up, the Highlanders could easily have scored three goals.
But the Hoops new boys Barkas and Shane Duffy emerged with a clean sheet in the end — largely thanks to the keeper’s saves to deny Oli Shaw and Ross Stewart.
Celtic got off to the best possible start when Jordan Tillson pulled back Odsonne Edouard, allowing the Frenchman to score from the spot just two minutes in.
Further goals from Albian Ajeti, Kristoffer Ajer, new boy Duffy and Patryk Klimala followed as the Hoops were ruthless.
The second half performance following Lenny’s blast was much improved — and that’s what Barkas expects to see from now on.
The keeper, whose side face St Mirren in one of their games in hand on Wednesday, said: “All of my team-mates are feeling very good and feeling as though we can win wherever we go and whatever match we go into.
“That is the way it has to be at Celtic and we’re going to become better the more we find ourselves on the field and get used to each other. We are waiting to have a lot of wins and take the championship again. I enjoyed the game against Ross County a lot.
“We hadn’t played together for a while because of the international games, so it was good to play again with my new team-mates and I was very happy that we managed to win the match.
“It felt good. I always feel good when I do my job and my job is to keep clean sheets.
“So when I manage to do that, it makes me feel as though I am helping the team.”
Celtic’s new back line in a 3-5-2 is made up of a Greek, an Irishman, a Frenchman and a Norwegian - so communication will be key. Goalkeeper Barkas admits the style of the Scottish game is something he’s had to adapt to — never mind the inclement weather compared to Athens.
But after six games he is confident he’s making the transition.
He said: “It was not so easy for me because I was coming from another country and the football here is different.
“There is more heart here amongst the players.
“Also things like a lot of the matches have rain, so the pitches are faster and that is something which you have to adjust to.
“These are the things you start to find out, so that’s why I say that game-by-game I can get better because I will get more and more used to the different situations which will come to me.
“I have tried to find what the coach wanted from me and I tried to find what my team-mates want from me and, with every game, I start to feel better and better.
“Game by game, I feel that it gets better, but I’m sure I need more time to see what Scottish football wants from me.
“We have to work on it game by game. We will do that.
“We are all different people, so we will need to find ourselves and I believe our communication is not so bad. For sure, after games, we can talk about how we can make this part of the game better.
“We need to have some time. We are 11 different people who started.
“Maybe some of the other players who were involved have played together in the past, but not all of us at the same time.
“I come here and try to find my way into it. That’s why I say game by game, we will become better.
“All of my team-mates are very good players and I am very happy for this because when you go into a big club, you like to see big players with big talent.
“At the same time, they all work so hard in training each day and you can then see that in the games.”
Although he wasn’t a virtual spectator here, Barkas knows there will be games where he’s idle for long spells before called into action.
There had been some rumblings from fans who reckoned they hadn’t seen him make a save yet.
But he showed his ability last weekend - and insists he’s got the mental skillset to cope with being an Old Firm keeper.
He said: “I don’t put pressure on to myself. I came from a big club in Greece and I know that Celtic is one of the biggest clubs in the world, so every game we want to win.
“Sometimes we might not play as well, but every match is special in that at Celtic you have to win them.
“I try to do my best every single game. Okay, there are a lot of games at Celtic when I might not have something to do or I might not have so much to do.
“That’s because I have very good defenders and very good players in front of me — but I still have to be focused all of the time and keep speaking with them.
“Even if I have lots to do or not lots to do, I have to keep that focus all of the time.”