Aberdeen: Jonny Hayes rules out title challenge this season
Jonny Hayes does not think his Aberdeen side can challenge Celtic for the Scottish Premiership title this season.
The Dons are just two points behind the league leaders after Sunday's 1-0 win over Inverness.
"I think the league's in the bag for Celtic and we're just taking it one game at a time, and hopefully bridge that gap and get closer to them," said Hayes, who signed a new deal on Monday.
"Celtic are still in a league of their own."
The Pittodrie outfit finished third last term, 31 points behind champions Celtic.
And Hayes reckons Aberdeen's focus should be on narrowing that gap this season.
"Celtic might have their focus on the Europa League at the moment," added the 27-year-old.
"Last year when they went out of Europe they tended to focus on the league and pull away every week.
"It's up to the fans how they want to see it, but a lot of them will be realistic enough to know Celtic are the big fish in our pond.
"Most will realise it will be a very tough ask to get anywhere near them this season. If we can slowly but steadily bridge the gap I'm sure everyone around here will be happy."
Hayes penned a deal that will keep him at Pittodrie until 2018, and he reckons it is a great time to be at the club.
"The manager came to me and mentioned casually about staying a bit longer. It was a no-brainer and just a case of getting a few minor details sorted out," he added.
"We have some young lads making the breakthrough now and most of the squad is under 26 or 27, so not really hitting their peak yet. There's a lot more to come, a lot of hard work though, but I think we can definitely go places with this team."
And manager Derek McInnes was delighted to get two more first-team players signed up.
"Both boys have been very consistent performers," he said.
"Andy's been here a long time and is probably enjoying it as much as he has done, and is playing as well as he has done, and he's certainly earned his new deal. He's a local boy and playing for the club means a big deal for him, and that shouldn't be underplayed at all.
"In Jonny's case, he's already extended since I've been here but after having a conversation with him he was keen to extend again, which is great news. It's a good bit of business all round."
Meanwhile, McInnes distanced himself from speculation linking him with the vacant manager's job at West Brom.
"My job's at Aberdeen and it's a job I'm thoroughly enjoying. Nothing deviates from my job here, it's all speculation," added the former West Brom midfielder.