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Celtic boss Neil Lennon hoping late international arrivals can make impact

Updated: Friday, 19 Oct 2012 12:09 | Comments

Neil Lennon on Gary Hooper: 'It wouldn't surprise me if there are a number of clubs in for Gary"
Neil Lennon on Gary Hooper: 'It wouldn't surprise me if there are a number of clubs in for Gary"

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has offered St Mirren some hope ahead of Saturday’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash in Paisley.

Lennon had 35 players away on international duty last week and is still waiting on four players coming back ahead of the trip to St Mirren Park which takes place before Tuesday night's Champions League clash with Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

In addition to having little time to spend with his players before their league campaign resumes - Georgios Samaras, Emilio Izaguirre, Miku and Victor Wanyama will join up the squad today - Lennon is aware that in September his side lost to then-bottom side St Johnstone ahead of their Champions League meeting with Benfica.

Lennon said: "It is always a good time to play us because we have so many players away and coming back from Timbuktu to Glasgow. You worry about the mental and physical fatigue.

"I won't get players back until today and it is a 12:30pm kick-off."

"We have so many players away and coming back from Timbuktu to Glasgow." - Neil Lennon

He added: "We had our fingers burnt against St Johnstone in the same situation, so we need to pick a team good enough and fresh enough to beat St Mirren.

"I saw them in their last game against St Johnstone and they were unfortunate to lose the game.

"Danny Lennon has them playing very good football and I don't think they will be far away from challenging for the top six."

Lennon denied contract talks with Gary Hooper have broken down and was unimpressed with reports claiming his star striker could be on his way to Liverpool.

With Fabio Borini expected to be out for up to three months with a broken foot and Andy Carroll on loan at West Ham, Luis Suarez is now the only senior striker available to Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers, who is reportedly interested in the 24-year-old former Scunthorpe player.

"It is speculation," said Lennon. "It wouldn't surprise me if there are a number of clubs in for Gary because of the way he is, but I would poo-poo that (Liverpool link).

"We are still in negotiations at the minute and I don't think we are too far away.

"There will be interest in them (Hooper and goalkeeper Fraser Forster) but they are not going anywhere.

"Fraser has signed a new contract and hopefully we are close to getting Gary's signature.

"If there are offers coming in, they will have to pay what we feel the valuation is."

Lennon is hoping that midfielder Wanyama also signs a new deal.

He said: "We are hoping to meet his representative again next week. He has been offered a new contract.

"We don't have to offer him a new contract, his (current one) still has a couple of years to run, but we feel it is a reward for performances he has put in since he came in the door.

"Whether his agent feels it is sufficient - that's what negotiations are all about.

"Hopefully we can come to a conclusion about that as well."

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