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Victorious Lennon makes Hooper plea

22 Apr 2013 06:48:12

Victorious Lennon makes Hooper plea

Neil Lennon revealed he has asked the Celtic board to do all they can to keep top scorer Gary Hooper after he reiterated his worth with a double in the 4-1 win over Inverness that clinched the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title at Parkhead.

The Hoops went into the game only needing a point but they did not come to life until after a dull, goalless first-half when goals from the former Scunthorpe forward, to take his season tally to 28, and a strike by stand-in skipper Joe Ledley in between, got the celebrations fully under way.

Georgios Samaras completed the scoring two minutes from time before Aaron Doran got a late consolation for the visitors. After the game Hooper was asked on television if he would be at Celtic next season and replied "we'll see", but his boss is confident that there is a chance of keeping him, saying: "Yes, that's just my feeling."

Lennon added: "I have made my submissions to the board regarding Gary. I haven't really spoken to his agent lately at length but I would like to keep Gary here because he is such an important player.

"Goalscorers are at a premium, he is only 24 and has got 28 goals this season, 18 in the league. He is two short of having 20-plus goals in the league for the third consecutive season which shows what an important, pivotal player he has been.

"We don't want to break the wage structure because one thing that is important is team spirit. These players, who are not on huge money, have raised the bar here over the last couple of years but we will do what we can to keep him."

Lennon watched from the stand, serving the first of a three-game ban as a result of being found guilty on Thursday of offensive language towards St Mirren skipper Jim Goodwin, and did not join the players on the pitch until 15 minutes after the final whistle, as per regulations regarding a suspended manager.

He revealed his overwhelming emotion was "one of immense pride in the players".

Lennon added: "The second half was indicative of the way they have played not only this season but the three seasons I have been here. When they really put their minds to it they show what a great team they are."

Caley manager Terry Butcher said: "Celtic are worthy winners. They are difficult to stop when they are in that mood, especially when there is a title at stake. It is difficult for Celtic because they have not had Rangers with them. When I was at Rangers I couldn't have contemplated not having Celtic there pushing you. But Celtic have got there and got a cup final to look forward to."


PA

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