Evening Express

Aberdeen’s Joe Lewis: We need to make sure we are getting stronger and better

Joe Lewis in action for Aberdeen

Dons keeper Joe Lewis believes a failure to move forward and retain momentum brings stagnation and ultimately regression.

Which is why he insists Aberdeen are focused on getting stronger and better both on and off the pitch in a bid to bring success under manager Derek McInnes.

Seven new signings have been introduced during the summer transfer window as the Reds attempt to build on last season where a fourth successive runners-up spot was secured with virtually the last kick of the campaign.

Another early indicator of how successful that restructure has been will come today against Hibs, a side expected to be challenging with Aberdeen at the upper reaches of the Premiership.

Lewis said: “We need to make sure we are getting stronger and better as both a club and the team out on the pitch.

“Every team seems to be getting stronger every season.

“What other teams do is out of our hands apart from when we play against them.

“But we are constantly trying to improve ourselves – that comes every day in training.

“The gaffer and his management team are working hard day in, day out to try to improve the team.

“I am sure the gaffer is trying to also improve the squad by adding to it.”

Only four games into a league campaign stretching out to 38 into next May, Lewis accepts today’s clash at Easter Road is only one step on a marathon journey.

However, it remains the opportunity to lay down an early marker against a key rival.

He said: “We don’t get carried away with individual games – win or lose, it won’t define our season.

“However, we certainly know it is a big game as Hibs are a good team and will be competing at the top end of the table with us.

“We need to be winning as many games as we can against the teams around us at the top. That is what we want to do.

“We go to Hibs confident and coming off the back of a great result against St Mirren (4-0 BetFred Cup) where we played really well.”

As well as securing fresh signings, fundamental to progression is retaining the top performers.

Aberdeen this week rejected a £3.5 million bid from defending champions Celtic for Scotland international Scott McKenna.

Following the bid’s rejection Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed he would end his pursuit, for this window, of the defender.

“I am sure there will be lots of teams looking at Scott,” said Lewis.

“He is a great player and we are lucky to have him.

“It will be great for him to stay. “At the moment Scott is an Aberdeen player and we are very pleased to have him.”

McKenna will not take his usual place at left-sided centre-back in front of Lewis today because the 21-year-old is ruled out with a hamstring tear. He is set to return after the international break next month.

Aberdeen, however, do welcome back two defenders today with Shay Logan returning from a three-match suspension.

On-loan Watford stopper Tommie Hoban has also recovered from a knee injury that ruled him out of the last three games.

For the previous two matches, with Mark Reynolds out for six months following knee surgery, the Reds have had four of six first-team defenders ruled out.

Yet they have kept clean sheets in both matches. Lewis, 30, reckons that is testament to the depth and versatility within the squad.

“We have had a few injuries and Shay was suspended,” he said.

“However, we still got clean sheets and that breeds confidence.

“There is a solidness within the team that I felt we had towards the back-end of last season and are now keeping that going this season.

“It was a very good performance against St Mirren and we had been waiting for that to happen, to get into our stride.

“Going forward we were excellent and defensively we were not under too much pressure.

“I only had one shot to save during the whole game which is credit to the lads going forward.

“And to the mental side of it from the back four and myself, just making sure we are switched on and in the right positions so that when the ball does get cleared by them we can keep it in their half. When called up we defended well.”

For Lewis, his job, and that of the defence, is to provide the platform for the Reds’ attacking players to go on and win the match.

He said: “We are a strong team and dominate possession in a lot of games, especially at home.

“For myself it is about keeping that concentration and talking to the back four as much as I can to keep them on their toes while we are attacking.

“And when we are defending the forward lads also come in and join in with that as well.

“There are goals in this team. We know we have enough strength going forward that if we can be strong at the back it will give us a good platform.”