Tuesday 21 November 2017

Hoops step up striker hunt

Lennon to hold onto Stokes but wants experience in attack

NEIL LENNON will step up his hunt for a striker this week but won't be pushing Anthony Stokes or Gary Hooper out the door.

Hooper and Victor Wanyama scored the goals that saw off Dundee United on Saturday to maintain Celtic's two-point advantage over Rangers at the top of the SPL as transfer speculation intensified.

Southampton had a second bid for Hooper rejected as Nigel Adkins attempts to be reunited with the striker he sold to Celtic from Scunthorpe with Lennon not in the mood for losing any of his prized assets.

August signing Mo Bangura from AIK Solna seems to have dropped out of Lennon's plans with an older head like Bolton's Kevin Davies thought to be a priority for the Celtic boss.

"You can't keep buying young players," Lennon explained. "Eventually you have to sprinkle it with a few older heads to keep the balance of the squad right.

"The young players are talented but you need to match that with mentality. Whether or not that comes to bite us later on in the season I don't know.

"A wealth of experience would help but January is a difficult time to do any business. If we are going to bring in anyone it will be a centre forward."

Hooper edged ahead of Stokes in the scoring charts with his 16th goal of the campaign highlighting the value of the partnership to Celtic's title hopes.

Both players are crucial to Lennon's plans with the Hoops boss pleased to get 65 minutes out of new dad Stokes.

The Celtic boss added: "Stokesy has had a difficult week, his son was born with a lot of other things going on outside the club but he contributed pretty well for the hour.

"I was delighted by Hooper and there has been another enquiry for him this week. The valuation of that club and our valuation is some way off.

"I've no idea if Southampton will come back in but they will get the same answer -- that he's not for sale.

"Goalscorers are priceless. If you look at Gary's record in his time here, he's got a goal in every one-and-a-half games.

"He was one of the leading scorers in the Championship. When I went to see him he stood out like a sore thumb.

"I think it's been good business and he's enjoying life here and enjoying his football."

While Celtic look to the transfer market, Rangers' attention this week is on the final stages of a tax tribunal that is likely to see the club face a bill in the region of €50m if confirmed guilty.

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