JONNY HAYES, a free agent after leaving Celtic last week at the end of his contract, has emerged as a shock target for Dundee United.

Robbie Neilson, manager of the newly-promoted Tannadice outfit, is strengthening his squad for the rigours of the Premiership and has admitted an interest in the 32-year-old Republic of Ireland international.

Hayes spent three years at the champions after ex-Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers paid £1.3million to Aberdeen for the versatile left-sided performer.

Neil Lennon released the veteran, Croatian central defender Jozo Simunovic and Scotland Under-21 star Calvin Miller at the end of their deals.

And Neilson hopes to snap up Hayes for the new boy who has also been linked with a return to Pittodrie while a few English Championship sides, with Blackburn Rovers, Preston, Derby and Queens Park Rangers among them, monitoring his situation.

Neilson, speaking on the BBC Sportsound podcast, said: “We know Jonny. He’s been a great player over the years and he’s one that we have spoken about, but financially we don’t know where we are.

“Kevin Nesbit is one at Dunfermline we had an interest in January, but we couldn’t get the deal done.

“He’s one that’s on the list, like I say, it’s uncertain times, what’s the budget going to be? Can we do it?

“There are positions we need to fill. They (Hayes and Nesbit) are two players we’re looking at, two players we are interested in, but it is so uncertain we don’t know what we can do.”

United make their return to the top flight with the new campaign scheduled to kick off on August 1.

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