NEIL LENNON has called for an urgent strengthening of the Celtic playing squad.
The requirement for fresh blood in the Hoops’ ranks was highlighted in a calamitous afternoon that saw a team minus injured pair Kieran Tierney and James Forrest – plus long-term crock Dedryck Boyata – routed 2-0 at Ibrox.
Mikael Lustig added to the problems when he limped off with the recurrence of a hamstring problem just before the interval and he is already a doubt for the Scottish Cup Final meeting with Hearts at Hampden a week on Saturday.
The patched-up side gifted Steven Gerrard’s side a goal inside two minutes and didn’t have the creativity, cohesion or competitiveness to answer the challenge during a depressing performance.
HAMPDEN DOUBT…Mikael Lustig could miss Scottish Cup Final against Hearts.
Lennon insisted the second loss in Govan in this campaign will not define his prospects of becoming long-term manager after accepting the role on an interim basis in February following Brendan Rodgers’ sharp departure for Leicester City.
“I think the lack of depth in the squad has been apparent for quite a while.
“We’ve got a Cup Final to look forward to. Obviously, we’re disappointed with this performance, but we know what’s at stake in the next couple of weeks.
“It’s very important we don’t let anything get in the way of that.
BY THE LEFT…Kieran Tierney aims to be fit for nine in a row.
“We have come through a lot of big games recently, meaningful games.
“I’m not saying this isn’t meaningful, but quarter-finals, semi-finals, league games. We got the title won and have a Cup Final to look forward to.”
Looking to the future and a full-time role as team boss, Lennon added: “Then maybe I will know after that.”
The Hoops completed a dire display in Govan with two on-loan players in the team – West Brom’s Oliver Burke and Borussia Dortmund’s Jeremy Toljan. Both will be returning to their clubs next month.
Timothy Weah has already seen his temporary transfer cut short and, as CQN reported yesterday, parent club Paris Saint-Germain are likely to sell him in the summer with Crystal Palace and Rennes among the frontrunners for the 19-year-old American’s signature.
Filip Benkovic remained on the substitutes’ bench at Ibrox and is in line to return to Leicester City although ex-gaffer Rodgers has made noises about possibly allowing him to go out on loan again with a possible return to Parkhead already mooted.
MISSING IN ACTION…the Hoops were without the skills of James Forrest at Ibrox.
Boyata will quit at the end of his contract and his last game for the Hoops will almost certainly have been in the 2-1 win over Steven Gerrard’s side in March before he limped off long before the end.
Emilio Izaguirre has already expressed a wish to play in the MLS next season, Scott Allan is heading for Hibs, Cristian Gamboa is also at the end of his deal, as is Lustig who has already attracted attention from Swedish outfits Malmo and AIK Stockholm.
Back-up keeper Dorus De Vries will be leaving and there are doubts about Marvin Compper, a dreadful waste of £1.3million who still has a year to run on his contract.
And there must be uncertainty over the futures of Nir Bitton, Eboue Kouassi, Lewis Morgan and Youssouf Mulumbu while Ivorian striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo, bought for £2million, has played five minutes of first-team football is now struggling with a hamstring injury.
Leigh Griffiths has not kicked a ball in 2019 due to personal issues and will bring down the curtain on his worst-ever scoring record with six goals to his name. It is to be hoped he make a full return in the next campaign.
Celtic sit on the brink of an astonishing and unprecedented treble treble if they are successful in their quest for a ninth successive domestic trophy against Craig Levein’s Edinburgh side on May 25.
And then the hard work begins again – on and off the field.