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The madness has begun
More than three weeks have passed since Celtic’s Scottish Cup Final triumph ended the Hoops’ campaign, which Neil Lennon described as “almost a success,” and many in Timdom are currently suffering from S.A.D. – closed Season Affective Disorder.
S.A.D. is a depressive state of mind, with afflicted Tims, who were re-energised and reinvigorated by Neil Lennon’s Celtic “Thunder” last season, currently longing for football “The Glasgow Celtic Way” and yearning for the start of the new campaign.
We “Just Can’t Get Enough” of Neil Lennon’s Celtic, a team with patently obvious potential for silverware success aplenty, though a team which requires “a few more quality players,” as the Celtic Manager stated in the aftermath of Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Cup Final victory over Motherwell.
And so, in the meantime, we sufferers of S.A.D., who are currently deprived of football during the longest month of the year, June, attempt to remedy our depression via “dreams and songs to sing” of the newly opened summer transfer window.
Neil Lennon has explained how he wants to add “a few more quality players” to Celtic during the summer, while he has also stated his intention to reduce the size of his playing squad. There will be entries and exits through Paradise’s Revolving Door.
Neil Lennon said: “I’d like to bring a few more quality players in to top up the squad. We’re looking to strengthen in two or three areas. It won’t be the big influx of players that we had at the start of the season. We just need that little bit more quality in a couple of areas.”
Neil Lennon continued: “We’ll need to trim the squad as well, which is always a difficult thing to do. But we’ve analysed the areas where we think we can improve and we’ll do all we can to bring a little bit more quality to the Club.”
Neil Lennon added: “We want to go and win the League next season.”
Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell has backed Neil Lennon with the pledge to provide the Celtic Manager with the resources for this objective.
Peter Lawwell said: “We just need to maintain what we have got, develop and, over this transfer window, add two or three players to give us that wee bit more quality. Hopefully, we’ll re-emerge dominant in the Scottish League and re-establish ourselves in the Champions League, which is important for ourselves and our fans.”
Peter Lawwell continued: “We had a period leading up to 2007 of stability at the Club with Martin O’Neill there for five years and Gordon Strachan again did a magnificent job. Over that period there was just one managerial change, there was consistency and we won six titles out of eight. We then entered a period where we had to rebuild and a new Manager in Tony Mowbray didn’t work.”
Peter Lawwell added: “But now we have a very young, good management team and a new set of players we recruited mostly last season. That gives us a great foundation and stability, so I don’t think we are too far away.”
Celtic have, of course, already signed two players on Bosmans – 19-year old right-back Adam Matthews from Cardiff City and 25-year old central defender Kelvin Wilson from Nottingham Forest.
But who will be the “few more quality players” signed by the Club during the summer transfer window and who will exit through the Paradise Revolving Door?
Personally speaking, I have no idea, as my “sources” are as credible as Ryan Giggs’ image as the perfect professional.
However and needless to say, Celtic have been linked with more players than Imogen Thomas and Natasha Giggs, Ryan’s sister in law.
A first-choice goalkeeper is THE priority after Fraser Forster returned to Newcastle United following the 23-year old Englishman’s successful season-long loan at Celtic.
However, Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew’s insistence on delaying his decision on which two St James’ Park goalkeepers he wants to keep from Fraser Forster, Steve Harper and Tim Krul could result in Neil Lennon looking elsewhere. The Celtic Manager will want his goalkeeper in place as soon as possible and he will not want to be disadvantaged by Pardew’s dithering, with Celtic’s pre-season merely weeks away.
Pardew said: “I want to underline I’ve not made any decision about the goalkeeper for next season, other than that I want to see them all in pre-season.”
There is a Celtic Cyberspace rumour that the Club offered Newcastle United £1.5m for Fraser Forster, but the St James’ Park club responded that they already had a £2.5m bid from Norwich City, who have of course been promoted to the English Premiership. Neil Lennon then asked his good friend and former Celtic team-mate, Paul Lambert, the Canaries’ manager, if he was indeed pursuing Fraser Forster. The answer was ‘no’ and Celtic, less than enamoured with the duplicity, contacted Newcastle United again to tell them to accept Norwich City’s bid for the keeper.
Fanciful stuff! But then again, Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew are involved.
Shay Given has also been linked with a move to Celtic after the Republic Of Ireland keeper stated he would relish a return to the Club he still supports after exiting Paradise in 1994.
35-year old Shay Given was first choice keeper at Manchester City before losing his place to Joe Hart and last season the Irishman featured only four times for Roberto Mancini’s side, hence the expectation he will depart Eastlands.
And Shay Given has stated “you never say never” to Celtic.
Whilst on international duty with the Republic Of Ireland recently, Shay Given said: “It’s too soon what’s going to happen. There are a lot of things to happen before that. But you never say never when Celtic come calling.”
Shay Given continued: “It’s no secret that I am a big Celtic supporter and I have been all my life. But I don’t know what the goalkeeping situation is there. I know Fraser Forster had a good season up there and there’s talk of him moving up there on a permanent basis. So if he goes or if someone else goes, we will have to wait and see. If I go, we’ll have to wait and see. But it is a fantastic Club with great supporters.”
Shay Given explained: “Ideally I would like to be playing, obviously. But it is out of my hands. Manchester City own me and I’ve got two years left on my contract, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. We will see what comes up, if there are options to play somewhere. If not, I will go back to Man City in pre-season and get my head down and go again.”
Asked if departing the EPL for the SPL would be a step down, Shay Given replied: “Not if you are playing for Celtic it’s not. It’s a great Club with unbelievable history. I wouldn’t look at it as a step down.”
Neil Lennon was cautious and pragmatic about the possibility of recruiting Shay Given for Celtic, as the keeper is reportedly paid £80,000 per week at Manchester City, which is a sum way beyond Celtic’s means.
Neil Lennon said: “To get Shay Given would cost a lot of money. He is a top, top goalkeeper.”
However, Shay Given insisted the financial obstacle for him to become a Bhoy was “not insurmountable” and there are Celtic Cyberspace rumours that the Irishman will return to Paradise.
And more recently, Shay Given also commented on the speculation linking him with Celtic while he was on a coaching course, which was also attended by Celtic’s Alan Thompson.
Shay Given said: “I said last week when I was away with Ireland that it’s a fantastic Club, with great history and great supporters. But it’s purely speculation at the minute. I don’t really know about it.”
Shay Given added: “Alan Thompson’s on this course as well so he’s been giving me a bit of ear-ache. It’s too early to say but it is a fantastic Club.”
Not an unequivocal denial, then.
Shay Given’s Republic Of Ireland understudy, 26-year old Keiren Westwood, has also been repeatedly linked to Celtic with the keeper now a free agent after his contract at Coventry City expired at the end of the season.
However, Keiren Westwood is expected to sign for Sunderland, thereby prompting speculation about the future of the Black Cats’ injury-plagued Scotland international keeper, 28-year old Craig Gordon. And despite the former Hearts keeper currently being sidelined with a serious knee injury, which could keep Craig Gordon out until October, he’s been linked with Celtic, which seems as likely a transfer as the existence of “Alistair McCoist’s £12million transfer warchest” from “Motherwell-born billionaire Craig Whyte.”
Celtic have also been linked with several defenders, despite the signings of Kelvin Wilson and Adam Matthews and last season’s clean sheet record.
Khalid Boulahrouz, who has one year remaining on his contract at Stuttgart, is reportedly a Celtic target and is valued at £1.5million.
The 29-year-old central defender has more than 30 international caps with Holland and has played for Hamburg, Chelsea and Sevilla.
As well as his considerable experience, Khalid Boulahrouz can operate in any position across the back-four, and in 2006 Jose Mourinho paid Hamburg £8.5m for the defender, who subsequently failed to establish himself at Stamford Bridge, spent a season on loan at Sevilla before being transferred for £4.5m to Stuttgart in 2008, when he signed a four-year deal.
Celtic have also been linked with Galatasaray’s 29-year old central defender Gokhan Zan, who has 33 international caps for Turkey and is available on a free transfer.
However, Zan is reportedly paid an astonishing £50,000 per week at Galatasaray and would therefore be well beyond Celtic’s modest means.
Celtic’s strength is currently in midfield, but nevertheless the Hoops have been linked with midfielders, notably Alexei Eremenko of Metalist Kharkiv, Victor Wanyama of Belgian club, Germinal Beerschot, Scunthorpe United’s Michael O’Connor and Jorge Claros of Honduran club, Motagua.
Last season 28-year old Alexei Eremenko was on loan at Kilmarnock where he impressed and the Finland international is reportedly valued at £1million.
19-year old Kenyan Victor Wanyama is also valued at £1million by his club, Germinal Beerschot, with Standard Liege also reportedly interested in the defensive midfielder, who used to play for Helsinborg.
Scunthorpe United’s 23-year old Northern Ireland international midfielder Michael O’Connor has also been linked to Celtic.
The self-confessed Celtic fan wrote on his Twitter Page: “Flattered to be linked with Celtic! Would be a dream move for me but I am a Scunthorpe player and am happy enough to stay here next year.”
Perhaps the most intriguing speculation involving Celtic and a new midfield recruit involves 25-year old Honduran international Jorge Claros, who plays for Emilio Izaguirre’s former club, Motagua, and is nicknamed “Pitbull.” Any player earning the nickname “Pitbull” deserves respect!
Motagua president, Pedro Atala, claimed: “There is a proposal for Jorge Claros to go to Scotland and we are working on it. I’d think it will be sorted out one way or the other within a week. It’s not official yet, but we are in advanced talks.”
Pedro Atala added: “Hopefully, he will do as well as Emilio. We are very proud of him, and what he has done in Scotland is not just an honour for Motagua, but for all Hondurans.”
Meanwhile, Celtic have been linked with more strikers than Arthur Scargill. The list includes Shane Long, Jay Bothroyd, Craig Mikhail Smith, Craig Bellamy, James McFadden and, of course, Robbie Keane.
Neil Lennon has repeatedly watched 24-year old Reading and Republic Of Ireland striker Shane Long (the SKY TV cameras do not lie), who scored 25 goals for the Championship club last season and who is valued at £4m.
And Reading owner John Madejski has confirmed Neil Lennon’s interest in the Royals striker and admitted the club is powerless to stop Shane Long leaving Reading after they were defeated 4-2 by Swansea City in the Championship Play-Off Final for promotion to the EPL.
John Madejski said: “Of course I am aware of Celtic’s interest. Neil Lennon has been watching him for three games now. I saw Neil at our last game against Cardiff. We’re still to hear anything official, but it’s obvious they are interested.”
Madejski added: “How confident am I that we can ward off Celtic’s interest for Shane? Not very confident actually.”
Madejski continued: “He’s world class and we will just have to see what happens with him. He’s a lovely lad and if Celtic are to land him then they will be very, very privileged because he’s a super player and a super individual.”
Madejski explained: “He’s hard-working and extremely cool in front of goal. What value would I would place on him? £20m. He’s got all the right credentials to go to the very top of the game. I think it’s very sad we didn’t get promoted as I think he’d have liked to stay at Reading. But that has changed because we will be in the Championship. The Championship is an interesting place to be. Personally, I think the Premier League is quite dull because it’s the same teams who win all the time.”
Madejski added: “But the downside of staying down is that we will lose Shane Long.”
Whether Reading lose Shane Long to Celtic remains to be seen, but it won’t be for £20m. That’s a certainty!
Reading manager Brian McDermott is equally certain that Shane Long’s future is not with the Royals.
McDermott told BBC Berkshire: “If a Premier League club comes in and we decide the deal is right and Shane wants to go there’s nothing we can do. It’s important I do the right thing by him as well. For me he’ll go down as a very special Reading player.”
McDermott added: “Do I want to lose Shane Long? No, absolutely not.”
Shane Long himself admitted that his future is uncertain at Reading.
Of his future, Shane Long said: “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens, really. I am just going to take a few weeks out now and relax and if anything does come my way, I’ll have a look at it. We’ll see what happens.”
Asked about the reported interest in him and McDermott’s assessment of the situation, Shane Long replied: “They have to come in first, so we will see what happens. But as it stands, I am a Reading player and I am looking forward to a Reading season – unless that changes over the next few weeks.”
Another reported Celtic target is 29-year old striker Jay Bothroyd, who is available on a Bosman after his contract at Cardiff City expired.
Jay Bothroyd, who scored 20 goals for Cardiff City last season in the Championship and who has been capped for England, is reportedly linked with several EPL clubs, but the striker appears to be in no hurry to choose his career path.
On his Twitter Page, Jay Bothroyd wrote: “After two weeks of full rest I started back at the training getting myself ready for pre-season! Feels good.”
There has also been tabloid speculation linking Celtic with 27-year old Peterborough and Scotland striker Craig Mickail-Smith and his team-mate at Posh, midfielder George Boyd.
However, Peterborough’s director of football, Barry Fry, does not expect a “Celtic swoop” after talking to Neil Lennon.
Barry Fry said: “There has been a lot of speculation linking Celtic with Craig and George but there doesn’t appear to be too much in it. We have heard about their interest from agents and other people in the game but there has been nothing official.”
Fry continued: “I also bumped into Neil Lennon at the League Manager’s Association dinner and I asked him if he had any interested in George or Craig, but he said he didn’t have an interest in either of them.”
Fry added: “I was a little bit surprised because both are excellent players and there is no shortage of interest in either of them. As it stands we have 22 teams in for Craig and six in for George, so it looks like they will be moving on to bigger things this summer.”
No transfer window in recent years would be complete without Celtic being “prepared to swoop” for Manchester City’s 31-year old striker Craig Bellamy, Birmingham City’s 28-year old striker James McFadden and Tottenham Hotspur’s 30-year old striker Robbie Keane.
Neil Lennon publicly pursued Craig Bellamy last summer only for the Wales international to choose a season-long loan move to his boyhood favourites, Cardiff City, who failed in their bid for promotion from the Championship to the EPL. With Craig Bellamy now returned to Manchester City, his career at Eastlands would appear to be as safe and secure as Kirk Broadfoot poaching an egg, thereby prompting speculation that Celtic might once again attempt to bring Bellamy back to Paradise, where he was of course on loan for the final five months of Martin O’Neill’s managerial tenure at Celtic. However, the reported £4million transfer fee and £80,000 per week wages could prove to be as difficult for Celtic as the challenge faced by Charlie Adams’ dentist.
Celtic were first linked with the mercurial James McFadden in 2003 when the self-confessed Celtic fan was starring for Motherwell, who then sold the Scotland international to Everton for £1.25million. The erratic McFadden – whose performances range from the sublime to the ridiculous – continued to be linked with Celtic during his four and a half years at Goodison Park before his £5m transfer to Birmingham City in January 2008, when he signed a three and a half year contract with a two-year option to extend. Injury-plagued ‘Faddy,’ who appears to be as robust as Shaun Maloney, is now at a career crossroads, with Birmingham City now manager-less following Alex McLeish’s “dignified” resignation by email and with the relegated St Andrews club wishing to renegotiate McFadden’s contract extension option at lesser wages. If Celtic were to “swoop” for James McFadden, who has the potential to be a stunning success at Celtic or an abject failure, the pre-signing medical would need to be more rigorous than Craig Whyte’s due diligence on Tax Dodgers FC.
And of course, there’s the obligatory Robbie Keane rumour, with the 30-year old Republic Of Ireland captain further from being a first choice striker at Spurs than Rangers’ John Fleck is from becoming “Scotland’s Wayne Rooney.” After his disastrous loan spell at relegated West Ham, Robbie Keane has returned to White Hart Lane, but a transfer from Spurs is expected this summer, with Fulham the current favourites.
Departures from Celtic this summer are as inevitable as the Laptop Loyal’s feverish excitement about Rangers’ “transfer warchest” (while Celtic have a “transfer budget”) and already Freddie Ljungberg has exited through the Paradise Revolving Door having not graced the Hoops’ legendary number 7 shirt. Paul McGowan has found his level – at St Mirren, permanently – and Ben Hutchinson (one of Gordon Strachan’s “projects”) is, I believe, likely to sign for Mansfield Town.
With Celtic putting out more loans last season than Wonga, it is as likely that many of the loan Bhoys will be in Neil Lennon’s long-term plans than it is John Reid and George Peat will share a retirement party, while Efrain Juarez’s Celtic future is on a shoogily peg.
Following his transfer from UNAM Pumas to Celtic in July 2010, reportedly for a fee of £3m, 23-year old Efrain Juarez made an impressive start to his Hoops career. However, his much-publicised fall from international grace, as a consequence of a party whilst on duty with Mexico that would have embarrassed Silvio Berlusconi, coincided with the beginning of Efrain Juarez’s decline at Celtic and his exit from Paradise seems likely.
Efrain Juarez has been linked with a transfer to Real Zaragoza, but the deal is now as likely as Prince Andrew and his former wife Sarah Ferguson earning an honest living after the Spanish club entered into administration. Efrain Juarez’s agent, Jorge Berlanga, said: “Efrain would prefer to stay in Europe and there is interest from a club in Spain.”
Niall McGinn, meanwhile, could go out on loan, according to the 23-year old winger’s agent, because the Northern Ireland international needs games but is behind Kris Commons, James Forrest, Shaun Maloney, Paddy McCourt and possibly Hoopy The Huddle Hound in the Paradise pecking order.
Niall McGinn’s agent, Gerry Carlile, confirmed: “As far as I’m concerned, Neil Lennon still has Niall in his thoughts. The players who were on the fringes and were moving on were told at the end of the season – and Niall wasn’t in that bracket.”
Carlile added: “But he wants to play. Maybe a loan spell, where he can get a run of games together, would be something to explore. If a loan comes off, it will be done with a view to making him a better player in the long run for Celtic.”
Unless his signs a contract extension, Scott Brown’s future at Celtic will be the subject of speculation with the Celtic Captain’s contract entering its final year, whilst the Laptop Loyal have eagerly promoted the departures of Emilio Izaguirre and Beram Kayal, who have both been promised improved contracts at Celtic as reward for their sensational debut seasons.
Emilio Izaguirre, who suffered a hamstring injury while on Gold Cup duty with Honduras, recently said of his first season at Celtic: “I’m very happy with God, with my family and with Celtic.”
And the left-back, who has been linked with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, paid tribute to Neil Lennon, saying: “We have a fantastic relationship, a really good relationship. I think because he’s been a player he understands how to treat players, not just me and also my team-mates and this has been the base of our success this year.”
Emilio Izaguirre added: “I’m very happy here at Celtic and I really appreciate everything that they’ve done for me. I would like to continue enjoying the football here and keep playing here at Celtic.”
Everyone in Timdom will hope that Emilio Izaguirre does indeed “keep playing here at Celtic” and the same will be said of Beram Kayal, who has also been linked to EPL clubs, particularly Bolton.
However, Beram Kayal has issued mixed messages to Celtic, the Israeli international midfielder adamant he wants to remain a Bhoy but simultaneously warning the Club to financially reward him as commensurate to his status.
The 23-year old midfielder, who signed from Maccabi Haifa last summer for £1.2million, said: “It is very important to play for who wants you most. I am not the man to make these decisions. I just concentrate on doing my job on the pitch for my team and manager. It’s all about playing football for me in the right place where I enjoy it.”
Beram Kayal continued: “I enjoy it at Celtic and I want to stay but who knows what might happen in the next few weeks? These discussions are nothing to do with me. It’s a question for the people who are in charge and it will depend on them.”
Beram Kayal added: “I like Celtic, I like the fans, I like the Manager and I would be very happy to keep playing for the Club. But they must treat me at the level I deserve.”
Beram Kayal has recently changed his agent, which is either a hostile move or a friendly one by the midfielder, and currently Celtic fans are concerned.
Beram Kayal’s new agent, Hamoudi Kayal, who is the player’s uncle, said: “At the moment nothing has changed. We respect the people we are dealing with and will wait to hear from them. We will also not be doing our business in public and will continue with the work behind closed doors.”
More positively, Beram Kayal insisted he wants to win the League next season – with Celtic!
He said: “I was sorry for the Club and for the supporters that we did not become the Champions at the end of last season. But I am definitely sure we can do it next season. I want to be a part of that effort.”
Beram Kayal added: “It is my wish to enjoy at least one more full season at Celtic and to give the fans and, especially Neil Lennon, my best form because we can be Champions.”
Indeed Celtic can be League Champions next season – and the chances of that success for Neil Lennon’s “Thunder” will increase if the likes of Shay Given, Emilio Izaguirre, Beram Kayal, Scott Brown and Shane Long are wearing the Hoops.
Pique, Alves, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi would also be beneficial to the Cause!