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McDonald confident of building on debut season success (SN)

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 23 May 2008

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Australia striker Scott McDonald has backed himself to improve on the 31 goals he scored in a memorable first season at Celtic.

The 24-year-old has been a huge hit at Parkhead since joining from Motherwell last year and a campaign which saw Celtic reach the knockout stages of the Champions League has culminated in a third straight Scottish Premier League title.

But McDonald insists all of that is no more than he expected. “I don’t think it was a special season,” he said. “I have always had the belief in my ability to score goals and when you have good players like Aiden McGeady and Shunsuke Nakamura supplying the ball, and you are playing up front with Jan (Vennegoor of Hesselink) who has also set up a few this season as well, you always believe that you will score goals.

“It’s been a great season for me personally but it would have meant nothing without the championship trophy. Hopefully there will be more goals to come next season.”

McDonald, who will spend most of June playing World Cup qualifiers for his country, also played down suggestions that manager Gordon Strachan could walk away from Celtic after delivering a third title.

Strachan is understood to be considering his options after a season in which he had to endure abuse from a minority of the club’s fans when it looked as if Rangers would reclaim the title.

After a 1-0 defeat by Motherwell at Parkhead on April 5, Celtic were six points behind their rivals who had two games in hand.

But with fatigue setting in for Rangers, Celtic were able to overhaul them in the final run-in and a 1-0 win over Dundee United on Thursday evening ensured the trophy was on its way back to Glasgow’s east end.

McDonald said: “The supporters here are very passionate people and they were disappointed when we were trailing Rangers and obviously showed their feelings.

“Maybe a few people are eating some humble pie right now. The players all came out and supported the gaffer and we know how lucky we are to have him here and long may that continue. If I had have said to you seven weeks ago that we would be sitting here (as champions) you would probably have laughed.

“The gaffer wasn’t affected by it all. It’s not the first time he has come under heavy criticism as a manager or when he was a player. When you come to a club like this, you have to deal with it. Those are just the pressures of playing in Glasgow.

“But he never stopped believing in his players. Over that period there weren’t many changes made to the team. He had full belief and confidence in the players and not for one minute did that change and that is one of the reasons we won the title.

“There is no question in my mind that the manager will be here next season and I look forward to doing it all over again.”

McDonald added: “This is my first title and it’s very special for me but the others said it was the most memorable for them and one that they will be talking about 20 years down the line.

“Obviously we needed results to go our way but we stuck at, piled the pressure on and we stand as champions which is fantastic.”

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