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Lennon confident Hooper will stay

By Football News



Celtic manager Neil Lennon is optimistic the club will fend off all offers for in-demand forward Gary Hooper during the January transfer window.

The Englishman has carried his impressive goalscoring form of last season into this campaign, with 14 goals in 25 appearances, including crucial strikes against Spartak Moscow to take the Glasgow club into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Such performances have reportedly sparked the attention of the Premier League - namely Southampton - however, Lennon insisted the club are in no hurry to sell one of their most prized assets, particularly with their European campaign continuing into the New Year.

"No, I'm pretty confident (Hooper will stay)," Lennon told reporters.

"We don't need to sell. As I said before, everyone has their price and I think I will have a say in the decision if a huge bid comes in for any of the players.

"But I don't want them to go. I want them to see this season out anyway, and make a real fist of the competitions. There are not many teams still going on four fronts - including the Champions League - with half the season gone.

Lennon continued: "If we receive a bid on the last day of the window, it's too late.

"I wouldn't have time (to replace him) and they've all month to put a bid in. It does happen but it won't happen here, not to any of our major players anyway.

"To leave with all the things going on here and go to what could be a lower-end Premier League team, I think that would be a backward step. He has produced time and again so I think he's one of the best strikers we have had here for quite a while.

"Regardless of the speculation, I'll rebuff the offers unless it is an astronomical one that suits everybody."

The 41-year-old added that if Hooper were to stay at Celtic Park and continue his development, a call-up to Roy Hodgson's England squad will soon be coming the former Scunthorphe man's way.

"I don't think Gary's far away at all from an England call-up. He had a wee bit of bug and that's why we left him out against Arbroath. But he'll play the bulk of the games now," Lennon said.

"He's a goalscorer and I think they're priceless. Not only that, I also think he is a pretty intelligent player. He's got a great first touch and he can bring other people into the game.

"We've given Gary a great platform. He's grown - he's still only 24 and people forget that - to the point where he is more on less on the verge of being in the England squad."