Celtic V Hearts at Celtic Park : Match Preview

18 January 2013 05:01
Celtic V Hearts - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Hooper staying put - Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has told Gary Hooper he is going nowhere this month after the club rejected an offer from Norwich ahead of their clash with Hearts.

Lennon reluctantly confirmed the development after reports emerged in England of a #5million offer from the Barclays Premier League club.

Hooper has so far resisted persistent attempts by Celtic to extend his contract beyond the end of next season but the club are in no hurry to cash in on the prolific forward as they chase four trophies, including the Champions League.

Lennon had yet to talk directly to Hooper when he confirmed the bid had been rejected but made his position clear at the pre-match media conference on Friday ahead of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League visit of Hearts.

"Our case is simple - you are not going," Lennon said. "You have got a year and a half on your contract so you're a Celtic player."

"The bid has been rejected. We had discussions with his representatives this morning and we are waiting to hear back from them.

"We are in a good position. We don't want to sell. We feel we have a lot to look forward to in the second half of the season.

"We don't want any of our top players to go and Gary comes into that bracket."

Israeli defender Rami Gershon could make his Celtic debut but Australian midfielder Tomas Rogic is still awaiting a work permit.

Wingers James Forrest (hamstring) and Paddy McCourt (knock) and defender Efe Ambrose, who is on African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria, are the only players missing.

Anthony Stokes is in the squad after recovering from an ankle injury but is unlikely to feature.

Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald admits the team would benefit from the addition of experienced players - but he has no fears over the young players set to supplement the squad at Celtic Park.

Hearts saw their transfer embargo lifted by the Scottish Premier League on Thursday after players were paid on time 24 hours earlier, but restrictions remain on who they can sign following a failure to pay outstanding bonus money.

Manager John McGlynn, who has seen Australia international Ryan McGowan and back-up goalkeeper Peter Enckelman depart this month, can only sign under-21 players, who are cheaper than the departing player, on a one-in, one-out basis.

McGlynn faces further, temporary problems at Parkhead with captain Marius Zaliukas and midfielder Ryan Stevenson, his most recent signing in August, suspended.

Scott Robinson is out injured and fellow midfielder Mehdi Taouil is doubtful with a foot problem, while full-backs Jamie Hamill and Danny Grainger remain long-term absentees with knee injuries.

MacDonald said: "It's obviously a very difficult situation. We have got a young squad and the conditions are it's young players we are going to bring in.

"I think the club could be doing with an experienced player or two. That's just the way it is. "We have still got a good squad, it's a good crop of young players we have here."

And the 26-year-old is not concerned by the reshuffle needed in defence, although Andy Webster should return from injury.

"It's not a problem," he said. "The Hibs game, Dylan (McGowan) came in at centre-back and Darren Barr played right-back and kept a clean sheet. We just get on with our job.

"The boys we have got to fill in are more than capable on their day. I have full confidence in them and there is no worry.

"The young boys who have come in have done really well. Obviously results haven't been as good as we would have liked but I think performances generally have been pretty good and we have been unfortunate.

"Maybe that's where experience counts, sometimes we have maybe not had the experience to hold out in games."

Source: PA