CHRIS SUTTON has urged Neil Lennon to get a move on in the transfer market as he strengthens the squad for the tilt at 10 in a row.
And the former Celtic striker reckons his old Hoops team-mate has two problem positions to sort immediately – goalkeeper and left-back.
Sutton, now a top media pundit, emphasised the importance of making sure fans’ favourite Fraser Forster, 32, remains at the champions, despite reported interest across the border.
But the one-time England international cannot understand the decision to allow Jonny Hayes to leave at the end of his contract after the versatile Republic of Ireland star’s three years at the club.
Lennon’s players returned to open-air training at Lennoxtown on Thursday in preparation for the new season’s scheduled August 1 kick-off.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Of course, getting Fraser Forster back and making sure Odsonne Edouard stays are the two key pieces of summer business which must top the planning list.
“Forster is wanted by clubs in England and there is talk of him being a target for a top-four outfit, but there’s no way he’d be replacing the guys between the sticks at those clubs.
“He’d be back-up keeper and, having wasted almost two years of his career on a bench at Southampton, does he really need to be doing that again at this stage of his life?
LAUGHING BHOY…Fraser Forster and Tom Rogic share a joke after the 1-0 Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone on March 1.
“Forster is hardly going to tell his grandkids about the day he was wearing a trackie while getting a Champions League medal. Or tell them about the save me made against Stoke’s Under-23 side on a Tuesday night.
“Big games and big pressure at Celtic brings out the best in him and he’ll sign if Celtic stump up the goods. I’m sure of it.
“The fact Craig Gordon has been offered a contract means it’s far from over the line. Parkhead chiefs have to fix that and get it done.”
Sutton continued: “Edouard seems to be talking as if he’s perfectly content with his life at Celtic at the moment. Although he’s got to say that given he’s under contract and can’t say anything else.
“But he seems to get the whole importance of 10. I’m sure a couple of extra quid on his weekly wage would help increase that feel and it’d be a massive coup if he stays.
“However, with Patryk Klimala and Vakoun Bayo yet to really prove their worth, Edouard and Leigh Griffiths may need back-up. Another striker wouldn’t go amiss.”
But Sutton admitted to being slightly bewildered at the release of the dependable Hayes, who arrived at the club as a Brendan Rodgers signing from Aberdeen in June 2017 in a £1.3million switch.
PUSH OFF…Jonny Hayes races past James Tavernier in Celtic’s 1-0 Betfred League Cup triumph on December 8.
He added: “Whatever you feel about the rights and wrongs of Jonny Hayes and Jozo Simunovic being let go, it cannot be argued their removal from the scene leaves gaps in the squad in terms of reliable back-up.
“Hayes, in particular, struck me as a strange one. Simunovic I could just about understand as the Croat didn’t have a great record of appearance with injuries.
“He made the odd error, but, in general, I thought he just didn’t play enough and was actually a reliable back-up.
“Hayes, though, was a bit more strange. I’m a fan of his as a squad player. He was always ready and willing when called upon and did a good job for Lennon whenever asked.
“The key thing about Hayes is he could do that job in three positions. As a left back, he went into matches and didn’t let his boss down.
“Playing as a wing-back, he also had the energy to get up and down his side and, in an emergency, he could cover the attacking left-sided position in a 4-3-3.
“Hayes was steady away, but if you think back to a game such as Hamilton away last season when Celtic were toiling at 1-1 against 10 men when he came on, he could impact enough and make a huge difference to help win the game.
“I don’t profess to knowing his contract situation, but there’s no way he was one of the club’s big earners, so with costs not so high and an ability to cover a variety of positions, it doesn’t make sense to me he’s gone.
“Especially when you consider Boli Bolingoli was never sighted once again having had a disaster against Rangers in the game last December when his team lost at home and has disappeared from the picture.
“Greg Taylor is perfectly fine to play at left-back or left wing-back, but he’s not enough. Lennon knows he needs to get another one in there.
“If Mohamed Elyounoussi isn’t re-signed, there is also a gap in the attacking area on that side.
“In truth, unless he gets a Hayes-type who can do it all, the boss might need two signings for that side of the park, even though I feel Mikey Johnston has the ability to step forward next season and fill the offensive part adequately.”
Lennon has already admitted to having a couple of transfer meetings with his scouts and there is bound to be activity within the next six weeks before the crucial campaign to make even more history with the magical tenth successive crown.