Thursday 23 March 2017

Turkish delight for Lennon as Miller goes

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has welcomed the news of Kenny Miller's departure from Rangers.

Miller's 22 goals for Walter Smith's side this season have kept Rangers neck and neck with the Hoops at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

However, Celtic's title chances appeared to be boosted when the former Parkhead striker agreed to move to Bursaspor in Turkey for a reported fee of £400,000 and wages of £50,000 per week.

Ahead of the visit of Aberdeen in the SPL tomorrow, Celtic boss Lennon recognised the worth of Miller to his Old Firm rivals - but insists Rangers still have the firepower to ensure the title race goes all the way.

"He has scored 22 goals so I'm glad to see the back of him really," the Irishman said.

"He's been a big player for Rangers this season and last season as well.

"Finances dictate that Kenny wants to go and try a different culture and good luck to him.

"I don't think it will have a massive effect on what we are trying to do.

"If Rangers can spend the money, then Walter is pretty shrewd in the market so we have to be aware of that.

"And they still have Lafferty, Jelavic, Beattie, Weiss, Davis, McCulloch and Naismith, all candidates for scoring goals.

"The proof of the pudding will be how big a dent it is to what Rangers are trying to do.

"But he has been a big player for them, no doubt about that.

"He has scored important goals for them this season and they might miss that."

Celtic midfielder Joe Ledley was more cautious when asked about Miller's departure but admitted that it could be good news for the Parkhead club's title hopes.

"It's nothing to do with us, it's to do with Rangers," Ledley said.

"We don't want to concentrate on Rangers, we want to concentrate on Celtic.

"But he has been a great player for them and maybe it's a positive for us.

"Maybe (it will give us the advantage) but we will have to wait and see.

"There is still time for them to bring in another striker."

Celtic are two points ahead of the defending champions, having played two games more, and seven ahead of Hearts who take on the Light Blues at Tynecastle tomorrow lunchtime.

Lennon insists the Gorgie side, unbeaten in their last 10 SPL games and with a game in hand over Celtic, should also be considered title contenders.

"I think it's nip and tuck, there's not much in it," said the former Celtic captain.

"They have a very difficult game against a resurgent Hearts team.

"There is no reason to write Hearts off. They are playing with a lot of confidence.

"They have been very consistent over a concerted period of time so you have to say they are still contenders.

"But we are at home tomorrow so it's important we capitalise on our home advantage."

Celtic are firm favourites to see off the Dons who lost 9-0 - a record defeat - when they last visited Parkhead in November under former boss Mark McGhee.

However, Lennon is not anticipating a similar result against a Pittodrie side who are much improved under the new management team of Craig Brown and Archie Knox.

"I would doubt it," said Lennon.

"There has been a dramatic improvement in Aberdeen's performance and consistency and I would say the majority of that is down to Craig and Archie coming in.

"They have probably added a little bit of confidence to the squad.

"This isn't being disrespectful to the previous manager but sometimes a new management team comes in and lifts the players.

"Craig has bags of experience and know-how.

"He did a very good job at Motherwell and seems to have done the same at Aberdeen."

Lennon added: "The win against Aberdeen the last time just gave us three points and boosted the goal difference.

"I don't think the performance overall was great, things went for us that day and on another day they might not have.

"It was a decent win but in the context of the season it was three points.

"We have done okay since then, we haven't really hit the heights.

"Aberdeen will be coming here trying to rectify that result and that's dangerous for us."

Lennon is working hard to bolster his squad before the transfer window closes.

He said: "I would like to think we would have someone in at the beginning of next week but I can't say any more than that.

"We are working on two or three options and without sticking my neck on the block we are close to getting over the line with one or two."

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