Jonny Hayes to continue dual Aberdeen role for remainder of the season amid Celtic coaching interest

Jonny Hayes -Credit:SNS Group
Jonny Hayes -Credit:SNS Group

Peter Leven says Jonny Hayes will continue his dual role as a player and coach at Aberdeen for the rest of the season.

The 36-year-old winger is out of contract in the summer and could return to Celtic as a coach under Brendan Rodgers. Interim boss Leven has leaned heavily on Hayes and brought him on to his own coaching team, along with Scott Anderson, in recent weeks. Leven said: “There is only myself and Scott Anderson now, who is still doing the 18s. They have games and also the Youth Cup Final, so we are stretched in that just now and Jonny is helping out.

“I don’t know what he is going to do after that. Jonny will play when I need him and he is still there. We are a little bit stretched for coaches, which is why we are all chipping in. Scott and Jonny are helping out.”

It has been widely predicted Hayes, who turns 37 in July, will hang up his boots and turn to coaching. He is one of the names under consideration for the Under-18 and B coaching roles at Celtic. Leven can see why there is interest in the likeable Irishman.

The Pittodrie gaffer added: “Jonny has opened that door by coaching the Under-16s here. I have seen him put on a couple of sessions and he’s a decent coach. What Jonny wants to do, we will support him.”

Hayes hasn’t had much game time in recent weeks, being Leven’s eyes and ears from the stand. He was back on the bench for the weekend win over Motherwell and Leven knows the veteran as well as captain Graeme Shinnie are big in the Aberdeen squad.

He said: “Jonny and Shinnie are huge in the dressing room and brilliant for me as a manager. I know they control and police the dressing room – and set the standards.

“I know I can trust Jonny in the stand as well. The information he gives me at half-time is vital. As a player and coach, he is brilliant.”

Further up the pitch, Leven believes next season could be a big one in Ester Sokler’s Aberdeen career. The striker has had to play second fiddle to top scorer Bojan Miovski.

Leven watched the Slovenian score a big goal in their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Celtic and expects him to come to the fore under Jimmy Thelin. Sokler will still play his part in the remaining four games, starting with the home clash against St Johnstone, as Dons look to finish top of the bottom six.

Leven said: “Ester is one of the best trainers I have ever seen. He gives everything every day. It is just unfortunate for Ester that Bojan is on 24 goals this season, so he has had to wait. It will be a big season for Ester next year.

“This is his first season and he has done well. Obviously he’s not got the game time he wanted but Ester will come good.”