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McCourt determined to make Celtic breakthrough

Celtic winger Paddy McCourt has been playing in a deep midfield position for much of pre-season but it is a different kind of central role he craves.

McCourt arguably made the most crucial single intervention for Celtic last season when he came off the bench at Fir Park in November with his side 15 points behind Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers.

Celtic were drawing 1-1 with second-placed Motherwell until McCourt embarked on one of his direct and skilful runs to set up Gary Hooper for the winner.

That was the start of a 17-match winning run in the SPL for Celtic but McCourt only made three substitute appearances during that sequence as a mixture of a niggling injury and, mainly, an inability to force his way into Lennon's line-up, saw him play a peripheral part.

McCourt said: "I'm hoping to play as much as possible. I don't think I played that big a role last year. I'm hoping to contribute more this year."

The Northern Ireland international would be happy to drop deeper in order to get a game.

"I don't really mind to be honest," he said. "I know it's a cliche to say 'as long as I'm in the team' but I genuinely mean that.


"If the manager sees me playing there then I've no problem playing there."

McCourt has been linked with a move away during most transfer windows, with Blackpool consistently showing an interest, but he has not had any offers this summer.

He has featured heavily in pre-season and will be looking for some assurance that he remains in Lennon's plans when the season starts.

But his immediate aim is to help Celtic into the Champions League group stages with their first match of two potential qualifying ties taking place at home to HJK Helsinki on Wednesday. "The season kicks off from there," he said.

Celtic host Inter Milan today in a 1.30pm kick-off, having failed to score in four out of five pre-season friendlies, but McCourt is not concerned.

"There has been improvement game to game," McCourt added.