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Tuesday 17 September 2019

Celtic hit back at Baggies attack on Lennon over Burke

Oliver Burke
Oliver Burke

Celtic have leapt to Neil Lennon's defence after the Parkhead boss was criticised by West Brom over his treatment of Oliver Burke.

The Scotland international was signed on loan by Brendan Rodgers in January but Baggies technical director Luke Dowling was left furious with the way the 22-year-old was handled once Lennon took over in February.

Dowling refused to go into the specifics of his complaint but insisted there was no chance the £15million attacker would be heading back to Glasgow while the Northern Irishman remains in charge.

"Olly Burke will not be going anywhere near Celtic with the current manager," he said.

However, those comments drew a sharp response from the Hoops.

In a statement, the Scottish champions said: "These comments, which question the professionalism of both Neil and Celtic Football Club, are ridiculous and completely inaccurate.

"West Brom have made no contact whatsoever with either Neil or the club in relation to Oliver.

"As with every player who comes to Celtic, Oliver received the very best of treatment and every support and opportunity. We wish Oliver the very best for the future."

Dowling launched his broadside on Monday as new Baggies boss Slaven Bilic was unveiled at the Hawthorns.

Dowling said: "We sent Olly to Celtic in good faith with Brendan Rodgers and Lee Congerton, there were some really good people up there that wanted to take Olly and wanted to play him.

"Once Brendan left to go to Leicester the treatment he got from the manager that's in place now is something we don't expect for one of our players. He won't be going anywhere near Celtic FC. We currently have a new manager that's excited to start working and looking at Olly."

Asked if he could elaborate on what had gone on at Celtic Park, Dowling added: "They know what's gone on and Olly certainly knows what's gone on. It's just something we're not happy with at all."

Burke burst onto the scene as a teenager at Nottingham Forest, earning a £13million switch to RB Leipzig.

A frustrating 12-month stint in Germany was ended when West Brom shelled out £15million to make him Scotland's most expensive footballer. Again, though, he has struggled to make an impact and was sent to Celtic Park in a bid to boost his confidence.

He started off in encouraging fashion with three goals in his first six appearances under Rodgers but started just five games after Lennon returned to Parkhead.

Now Dowling says it is important Burke is allowed to find his feet under Bilic. He said: "We believe he's got an opportunity back here with a new manager in place.

"When West Brom bought him, look at the games he'd started, I think there was only 19 in his career.

"There was big expectation when Olly came here., but I don't believe he really got the best chance to perform here.

"One minute he's told he's a right winger, next minute he's a centre-forward then he couldn't do that because he couldn't play with his back to goal.

"He's had mixed messages and that's why we thought going up to work with Brendan would be a good period for him to come back a better player and to improve on his game. But unfortunately that wasn't to be. He needs stability."

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