Cox in demand as Celtic battle with Blackburn to bag striker
CELTIC are prepared to step up their interest in Simon Cox and enter a race with Blackburn Rovers for his signature.
Neil Lennon has been a long-term admirer of the Irish striker and contemplated a move at the end of the Premier League season in May.
The change in manager at West Brom gave Cox time to mull over his options, and he then embarked on Ireland's Euro 2012 adventure.
But after returning to pre-season training with his employers, it still looks like his future lies away from the Hawthorns, with new boss Steve Clarke ready to listen to offers.
Blackburn, who have already recruited Leon Best this summer, want to bring Cox to Ewood Park to spearhead their promotion effort.
However, their interest is believed to have sparked Celtic into life, with reports yesterday suggesting they are preparing to table a bid for the 25-year-old.
Meanwhile, Cox's Irish team-mate Stephen Kelly has signed a two-year contract extension at Fulham.
Martin Jol has strengthened the defensive department this summer, but the Dubliner's future is secure until 2014.
Another Irishman in good form is Stephen Ireland, who is anticipating a change of fortune at Aston Villa under the stewardship of Paul Lambert.
The international exile has enjoyed the Birmingham side's pre-season tour of the United States, and feels that the new boss can push the club towards the right end of the table.
Lambert favours a style of football that should suit Ireland, who has struggled to live up to his £60,000-a-week wage during his time at Villa Park, although he did impress towards the end of last season.
"The confidence in all the players is sky high and it's nice to see, because I think the club deserve better and the fans deserve better than what's been happening," said the Cobh man. "I think it's going to be a really positive season for us at this club.
"The gaffer is developing the players. I know he's only been here for a few weeks but you can already tell that the players are developing and learning. You can really see that. I can already see players coming on leaps and bounds, which is brilliant."