Monday 20 November 2017

Celtic breathe easy after Hooper scare

Roddy Forsyth

Gary Hooper will return next month to reinforce Celtic's title bid, although he will miss the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on January 2.

Neil Lennon had feared that Hooper would be ruled out for the whole of the campaign when the forward was stretchered off during the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock on Tuesday night but the Celtic manager was visibly more relaxed about the prognosis yesterday.

"We watched it again on the video and it looked like an ankle sprain," said Lennon. "Gary is not one of those lads who lie down for nothing. He's quite a hardy boy.

"When he stays down, you know there is something wrong.

"We don't want him to miss out because his goalscoring record so far is pretty good. Had he been on the pitch a bit longer against Kilmarnock, I think we would have won the game.

"An ankle sprain would be three to four weeks. I didn't want to be pessimistic or optimistic. We just have to wait and see the results."

Lennon took advantage of the recent spate of postponements caused by the freezing conditions to check possible signing targets and admitted that he would like to bolster his attack with at least one more forward.

"We have looked at a few, but whether we can get them done or not in January is another thing," he said. "It's a hard time to get players in, but we have always been working on positions where we feel we need to improve and we have, hopefully, got a couple of options to bring in if we can.

"I'm not sure how much of a budget I'll have. That'll be sorted over the next couple of days, but we have looked extensively at players who we feel will improve us and, hopefully, we can get over the line with a couple.

"I don't think we are far away from being a very good team. However, we have lost Shaun Maloney for a considerable length of time and that will hurt us.

"Hopefully, Hooper won't be out for too long, but there is an opportunity for some of the other ones to come in and make their mark.

"Beram Kayal trained today and he will come into contention for the game on Stephen's Day against St Johnstone. That will be a huge boost for us."

One player who could be recalled by Celtic is Morten Rasmussen, who has had very little game time at Mainz, where is on loan. The forward's tendency to haunt the penalty box at the expense of work rate elsewhere on the field has kept him on the sidelines, but the presence of just such a predatory player might well have been of benefit to Celtic as they struggled to pierce the Kilmarnock defence.

"Morten has a knack for scoring and he might have made a difference," Lennon said. "If he does arrive back in January, he would come straight into the squad."

Elsewhere, Hibernian's Liam Miller won his appeal against the red card for violent conduct shown to him during Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Kilmarnock when he fouled Conor Sammon.

The SFA's appeals panel have downgraded the sanction to a yellow card and he is now free to face Aberdeen at Easter Road on Sunday. © Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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