Sunday, January 12, 2014

Scottish Premier League News January 2014

Scottish Premier League News December 2013
SPL News

CELTIC

Neil Lennon has dismissed any suggestion that Celtic will be preparing to make a marquee signing in the looming January transfer window - and the Hoops boss isn't of a mind to bring in a box office name on the back of a short-term loan deal.

In recent seasons the Parkhead side have introduced the likes of Roy Keane, Robbie Keane and Freddie Ljunberg at this stage of a campaign, with varying degrees of impact. With Celtic well on their way to a third successive title there would be little need for any further reinforcements other than to encourage more entertainment value for season ticket holders between now and the end of the season.

Lennon, though, is more inclined to look to the bigger picture as he attempts to mould a team for the long-term.

"I don't want to bring in any players like that because it won't serve any purpose going forward," said Lennon. "Any player we do bring in I would like to be permanent." A goalscorer, though, is the priority with the Hoops boss keen to bring in a player who could use the remaining months of the current campaign to bed into the team and therefore be up and running when the critical but early UEFA UEFA Champions League qualifiers begin.

"We are looking but we've not pushed the button on anyone yet," Lennon said. "You know what January is like. Every day a new name will come forward. But we have plenty of options and we would hope to come out of January with a stronger squad than the one we went into it with."

Lennon has been linked with a move for Dundee United's Stuart Armstrong but would not be drawn on the player. "You're always wary that they play well at a certain club and they come here to a different environment with different pressure they're not used to," Lennon said. "You don't just look at their ability but their mental strength as well."

The Parkhead manager has been linked with a number of players, the latest being South Korean midfielder Han Kook-Young of Japanese club Shonan Bellmare, who claims he has already been approached by Celtic.

Egyptian teenager Mahmoud Hassan, Japanese midfielder Hiroki Yamada - who had a trial period at Lennoxtown last week - Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason from Heerenveen and USA international forward Aron Johannsson are also believed to be on Celtic's radar.

"We have made strides in trying to get one player in," said Lennon. "We are in talks, but nothing is confirmed yet. People think we have a relatively strong squad. But we don't. A few injuries, and we are looking pretty thin at times. The likes of Scott Brown, Virgil van Dijk, Efe Ambrose, Kris Commons and Fraser Forster have played a huge volume of games - basically a season in half a season for a lot of players.

"A lot of these matches have been high-intensity, pressure games, but I don't want the players to tail off now. Hopefully we can get into the break we are taking to Turkey next month unbeaten, and come back even fresher for the second part of the season."

Lennon, meanwhile, has continued to play down any chance of his side going through the SPL season unbeaten.

The Celtic boss has taken great satisfaction from the consistency that his side have shown domestically this season, but he is wary of predicting a whitewash.

"To go through a league season is virtually impossible but where we are at the minute is very pleasing," said Lennon. "The attitude of the players has been fantastic. People will look at the Scottish game and talk about the level of competition. But I've got to make this season better and the only way to do that is to instil a certain mentality, a will to win and a determination to not get beat. We've just had a Champions League campaign which wasn't as good this year compared to last season. But we have set the bar very, very high." While Lennon will look to bolster his squad in January, he will not recall Tony Watt from his loan spell at Belgian club Lierse.

20-year-old Watt scored twice as a substitute for Lierse in their 3-0 Boxing Day derby victory over Mechelen. It was a perfect response to recent criticism of the player's attitude from Lierse coach Stanley Menzo who had raised doubts over whether Watt would remain with his club for the rest of the season.

Lennon agrees that Watt has issues to address but intends to leave the Scotland Under-21 international striker where he is for the moment. "I'm not of a mind to bring him back just yet," he said. "We've loaned him for the year and I'd like him to see that one out. We couldn't put him out on loan anywhere else if he does come back, so that's not crossed my mind.

"I wasn't aware the Lierse coach has had a pop at him publicly. I'll speak to Tony over the next week or so, see how he is feeling and what the situation is. There's an immaturity about Tony and the reason for putting him on loan was to see life at a different place. If it's not going well, then he needs to knuckle down and make it work. The onus is on him. "He can be a difficult boy at times but there's no malice in him or anything like that. When he's finished at Lierse, he will still be part of our plans for the future. There's no question that Tony has ability. He's raw and just needs to polish it off a bit - and polish himself off as a fully rounded figure. He's not a man yet."

RANGERS

Ibrox manager Ally McCoist has admitted that had he been at the peak of his playing career when Rangers went into liquidation he may well have been tempted to head out of the club. That was the situation faced by the likes of Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker and Allan McGregor - all of whom were publicly criticised by McCoist for not moving their contracts from the old club to Charles Green's newco 18 months ago.

At the Rangers' AGM, McCoist again took a swipe at those players who had 'headed for the hills'. However, when asked if he would have remained if the club had gone bust in 1992, McCoist said: "I don't know what I would have done.

"It's the easiest thing for me to say that I'm a Rangers man but I don't know. Nobody would know. People have made decisions, choices, and they have to live with them. "Some of the boys crossed over and moved, some moved before it. I'm a big boy and I'm not going to look back and start criticising people. That's life. You make decisions and it would be wrong for me to comment on a hypothetical situation like that.

"I don't know but I don't think anyone can argue that I've made many mistakes. But I've always tried to do what's right for the football club and I'll continue to do that. I wouldn't want to move back into hypothetical 1992 situations."

Meanwhile, McCoist was irked as his side lost their 100% League One record after a Boxing Day draw against Stranaer.

McCoist insisted he 'couldn't give a monkey's' about any chance of a flawless league season disappearing, with his anger reserved for a dismal display and the poor concession that proved so costly.

"I'm certainly of the opinion that Stranraer more than deserved their point for their overall performance.But, from our point of view, it wasn't good enough. "The players have got a lot of praise for going on a great run since the start of the campaign, but even they would admit that display wasn't good enough. We deserved the criticism. I'll be 100-per-cent honest with you, I actually couldn't give a monkey's about the record. I'm not interested in it. I'm only interested in the level of performance that we gave - and that was very disappointing."

HEARTS

Tynecastle boss Gary Locke has insisted that he wishes to remain in the managerial seat at the trouled Edinburgh club for as long as possible. Thrown into the job on the back of administration and a 15-point penalty, the 38-year-old then had to deal with a transfer ban. His skeleton squad of kids have been rooted to the bottom of the Premiership table since the start of the season and are now staring certain relegation in the face. But the thought of quitting the club he loves hasn't entered his mind, despite the constant off-field problems that have engulfed him during his time in the job.

Administrator Bryan Jackson has given Locke his backing and made it clear he wants him to stay and guide the players through the most turbulent period in the club's history. "It was a relief to hear that from Bryan," said Locke. "I'm working under extremely difficult circumstances but I won't dwell on it. I know it's part of the job and I'll have to deal with it.

"I haven't thought about quitting, not at all. Don't get me wrong, it's been tough as we're in this position with such a young team and it's hard to compete at the highest level. "But I love my job and love working for Heart of Midlothian FC. That will never change because it's a great honour to be the manager.

"I'm a positive person and despite the current predicament of the club it's all about making sure we come out of it and get back to where we should be in Scottish football.

"Of course I'd stay if we were in the Championship next season. I love it here. It has been a difficult season but the most important thing is that the club is still here and it survives. "If the club survives, that's an achievement in itself and then we can look to rebuild. "Obviously it becomes harder for me when we lose players to injury and illness.

"But we just have to keep working. Listen, we were in a horrendous position in the summer, but we're still here.

"Most Hearts fans realise that's the main achievement. And even now, we're still not out of the woods, there are important meetings to come that could make or break this club. Hopefully it will be positive."

Locke admits it would be pointless to try to negotiate his future at the club, while its long-term survival is still in the balance. It's the same with his players who are out of contract.

And despite the Foundation of Hearts being confident of a takeover, the Jambos boss says he has enough on his plate just trying to pick up points on a Saturday. He said: "I haven't discussed my future at all. The club is still in administration and nothing can be done off the pitch until the new owners come in.

"The players are in the same situation.

"We have a lot out of contract in the summer and it will get to the stage where they'll want to know about their futures.

"Unfortunately, with the predicament we're in we can't sort any of that out right now."

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