NEIL LENNON is refusing to sanction any moves for a new keeper until he is absolutely convinced there is no possibility to Fraser Forster returning to Celtic.
The Hoops boss is giving the fans’ favourite until the last possible moment before he concedes all hope of a deal is gone.
Forster had been expected to rubberstamp a comeback – either on a temporary or permanent basis – after last season’s excellent season-long loan switch from Southampton. However, any chances of a quickfire return were jettisoned when obstacles appeared.
The six times-capped England international netminder, 32, had talks with south coast club’s gaffer Ralph Hassenhuttl and it looked as though he had determined to stay at St Mary’s with two years of a £90,000-per-week contract still to run.
But Forster is now expected to be among a host of fringe players the Austrian coach is ready to offload during the transfer window which will be open until October 5 – two months into the Premiership season.
Lennon has been looking elsewhere and Greek international Vasilios Barkas, of AEK Athens, has moved to the front of the queue which also includes ex-Celt David Marshall, currently at cash-hit Wigan, and former England shotstopper Joe Hart who has left Burnley at the end of his deal last month.
The nine-in-a-row champions now they are facing a race against time to get the No.1 problem position resolved before the Premiership kick-off against Hamilton Accies at Parkhead a week today.
They are willing to pay £3.5million for Barkas, but his club rate him in the £6.5million bracket, as CQN reported.
Southampton will accept in the region of £5.5million for Forster who joined them from the Hoops in a £10million transfer in August 2014.
The skyscraper keeper’s weekly wage would be an obvious stumbling block for Celtic unless he can negotiate a pay-off from the English top-flight side who want him removed from their pay roll.
Time is running out for Forster as Lennon ponders hitting the button to bring in someone to rival Scott Bain for the gloves.
Craig Gordon, of course, ended his six-year association with the champions at the end of his contract to rejoin Hearts in the Championship