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Saturday 24 August 2019

Connell close to Paradise deal as Celtic defend boss

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon

Celtic are close to agreeing a deal for Irish teenager Luca Connell after the midfielder visited the club's Parkhead home for contract talks.

Connell (18) finished last season on a high despite the fact that his club, Bolton Wanderers, were relegated from the Championship as he broke into the first team. He was also called up to train with the senior Ireland squad by Mick McCarthy, only denied a place in the final squad for two Euro 2020 qualifiers due to injury.

Given their relegation and their financial problems, Bolton know they cannot hold on to Connell.

The Liverpool-born player, who qualifies for Ireland through his grandparents, revealed on Ireland duty last month that he was not on a professional contract with Bolton so the club will only get compensation for him when he does move.

Connell has been linked with a number of Premier League and Championship teams and Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv were also linked but Celtic are now favourites to sign him as the midfielder and his agent were seen at Parkhead yesterday.

Criticised

Meanwhile, 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."

Broadside

Dowling launched his broadside on Monday as new Baggies boss Slaven Bilic was unveiled at the Hawthorns. "We sent Olly to Celtic in good faith," Dowling said. "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. It's just something we're not happy with at all."

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