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EXCLUSIVE: LENNY WAS LET DOWN, INSISTS CELTIC LEGEND

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CELTIC legend Davie Hay insists Neil Lennon was let down by the lack of quality recruits in the summer.

The former Hoops boss and player also had a successful spell as chief scout when Tommy Burns and Wim Jansen were in the Parkhead hot seat.

Hay played a key role in bringing Henrik Larsson to the club in 1997 and was also instrumental behind the signings of Pierre van Hooijdonk, Paolo di Canio and Jorge Cadete, among others.

The one-time Scotland World Cup star believes there is a huge future at the club for David Turnbull, signed in the summer from Motherwell, and he just wished Lennon had been fortunate to have others of that calibre and quality as additions to his squad as Celtic went into a crucial campaign looking to make history with their tenth successive title.

Hay, speaking to author and friend Alex Gordon in another fabulous CQN EXCLUSIVE, said: “The importance of a dependable goalkeeper and reliable goalscorer was never more clearly illustrated than this season.

VASILIS BARKAS…Greek keeper has that sinking feeling.

“Fraser Forster was not adequately replaced and that fact is borne out by the fact the team has had three different keepers since the big kick-off – Scott Bain, Vaslilis Barkas and Conor Hazard.

“The goalkeeping position is absolutely vital to any team and that cannot be stressed highly enough. You need a guy between the sticks you can trust.

“If you are fortunate enough to have a commanding No.1, his ability spreads confidence throughout the players in front of him. If you have a nervy back line of defence, the guys around about him will undoubtedly be affected. They begin clattering the ball everywhere and anywhere just to clear their lines and keep it away from the danger zone.

“There is the flip side if you have a shotstopper who is in control and you know he has the respect of your opponents. If you’ve got a dodgy goalie, rival players will have shot from all ranges and angles. They will be working on the principle that anything on target will give him problems. If he spills a run-of-the-mill shot, there is always the chance of a team-mate collecting the rebound and doing some damage.

“No disrespect to the Celtic keepers, but there has been no stand-out among the trio. No-one has been in charge of their penalty box, no-one has come for those horrible high balls when the defence is crying out for help.

CONOR HAZARD…made his first-team breakthrough this season.

“A lot was expected of Barkas, but he has been less than convincing. Okay, I understand he is in a new country in the midst of a Covid pandemic lockdown, but the same can be said for every single player in the universe who transferred from their own turf to another nation since January last year.

“It may be a factor in preventing a player from settling in immediately, but these are the risks you have to take. They come with the profession. There will be obstacles placed in your way and you just have to overcome them. It may not be easy, but it must be done.”

Hay, now a proud club ambassador, continued: “When I was looking at players for Celtic, I took a lot of things into consideration. I had a fair idea of their ability, of course, otherwise I would not have been watching them in the first place.

“Videos can show you anything, but you do not have to be in the genius category to understand an agent will not show you videos of their client having a bad day at the office.

“Temperament and sheer determination were two factors for me to look for. Did a player let his head drop too easily if they were up against it? I put forward Di Canio to Tommy Burns after watching AC MIlan being thrashed 3-0. I liked his spirit and he spent a lot of the game trying to cajole his team-mates into making a better fist of it. That’ll do for me.

“Looking at a keeper, you want to see how he reacts if he makes a mistake. He could come for a high ball and fumble it or just let in a shot that you reckon he should have saved. Does he get his act together immediately after a blunder? Or does he fall apart? If he’s in the latter category, I wasn’t interested.”

ODSONNE EDOUARD…getting a good view of the action.

Hay looked further up the field at Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala and added: “Neil Lennon would have expected so much more from those players.

“Odsonne hardly stirred in the first part of the season. There may have been reasons for that, but he was not as sharp as he was in the previous campaign.

“Was his head elsewhere? No doubt we will find out in time and, of course, he had a Covid scare when he was in Paris in October with the France Under-21 squad. The virus may have taken its toll.

“But he was not chasing the ball down as he should have done. That’s a basic part of any striker’s role in the team. It would be a wonderful to score a hat-trick in every game, but, alas, that player has yet to be born.

“So, when you are not firing in goals by the bucketload, it is essential to do the dirty jobs, the covering and the challenging and making sure the opponents know you are on the pitch.

PATRYK KLIMALA…still waiting to spark since his arrival in January last year.

“Odsonne kicked off the league season with a hat-trick against Hamilton Accies in the 5-1 win at the start of August. He did not score another goal from open play until he lobbed in the third in the 3-0 home victory over Dundee United on December 30. That’s an astounding fact.

“Ajeti hasn’t looked like a £5million hitman and Klimala had a real opportunity to show what he could do in the match against Steven Gerrard’s side at Parkhead in October when he got the nod to start with Edouard in quarantine. He was chosen ahead of Griffiths which, upon reflection, was not a great decision. Hindsight, my friend, is a wonderful thing. It is also useless.

“I believe these three players have a combined total of 16 goals among them in this fairly awful season. That’s not good enough, nowhere near it.

“I wish the new manager, whoever it may be, the very best of luck in sorting out his squad for the forthoming term, but two obvious areas that need to be urgently addressed are right at the back and right up front.”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another superb Davie Hay EXCLUSIVE – only in your champion CQN.

 

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