Thursday 29 September 2016

Hartson: Hoops need at least three signings

Declan Rooney

Published 19/07/2016 | 02:30

John Hartson at Thomond Park to promote Celtic's match against Inter Milan on August 13 Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
John Hartson at Thomond Park to promote Celtic's match against Inter Milan on August 13 Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers need to sign a minimum of three new players if they are to make any meaningful progress in this season's Champions League, according to former Hoops great John Hartson.

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Hartson (41) believes that Celtic need a "freshness" after two years of failing to qualify for the group stages of Europe's premier club competition.

And, for that to be achieved, Rodgers needs to be backed by the club's owners in the transfer market in order to sign a striker, a midfielder and a centre-half.

The 51-times capped Welsh international is confident that Celtic will turn around last week's shock 1-0 defeat to Gibraltar champions Lincoln Red Imps in tomorrow's second leg at Parkhead.

"There is no guarantees of anything, but I think we will get through to the next round. After that, I'm hopeful more than confident that we will get into the group stages.

"Brendan can only improve the current squad so much. We need to bring in some impetus. I'm not quite sure what we're waiting for. Surely we should be looking to bring in players right now.

"We're two or three weeks away from the first game of the (Scottish Premiership) season and we've got these big friendly game coming up.

"Now is the time to bring in some new faces to give the club that little lift and take us through to the group stages. When new players come in, people around them raise their game.

"Before he took the job, I'm sure Brendan would have spoken to the board and said 'I need this and I need that - he's not good enough, he's not good enough for me. I need to bring players who are going to be good enough to talk Celtic forward. This is what I need.'

"Yet, at this moment in time we are not doing anything. We're not bringing anybody in and I think we need to do that. Brendan needs a little bit of help.

"I think he needs at least three. He needs a central defender, a creative midfield player and a striker."

Speaking in his role as Celtic ambassador ahead of the club's upcoming friendly with Inter Milan at Thomond Park on August 13, Hartson was firm in his belief that Rogers will be a good fit as Celtic manager.

But he warned that the pressure is on the former Liverpool boss to deliver in Europe as well as on the home front.

"If Celtic wanted a manager just to win things in Scotland, Ronnie Deila was doing fine," he said.

"But he failed to get into the Champions League twice - once to Malmo in the play-offs and the season before to Maribor.

"The big European nights is where Celtic feel they belong. They can't go three, four years of not having that, not having the income that comes from being in the Champions League group stages, the full houses at Celtic Park, playing against the giants of European football

Calibre

"We've seen it over the years. We've seen it with Martin (O'Neill) and we've seen it with Gordon Strachan. That's what the fans want. That's why they have brought in a manager of Brendan's calibre."

Rodgers did not come cheap - at £50,000-a-week he is the highest-paid manager in the history of Scottish football. However, the Scottish champions believe it will be money well spent as they look to reinvigorate themselves following the failed Deila experiment.

Buoyant season-ticket sales have helped cover the cost of his appointment and now the Parkhead faithful are looking for a return in the shape of an attractive, attacking style of play at home as well as abroad, especially with Old Firm derbies back on the schedule, with Rangers due to visit Parkhead on September 10.

Celtic face Inter Milan at Thomond Park on Saturday, August 13 as part of the International Champions Cup. Tickets can now be purchased through www.ticketmaster.ie

Irish Independent

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