Tuesday 20 February 2018

Hooper in Celtic squad as QPR move stalls

Steve Bruce does not expect to renew his interest in Gary Hooper
Steve Bruce does not expect to renew his interest in Gary Hooper

Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon will continue to utilise the services of Gary Hooper while the future of Celtic's top striker remains unresolved.

The Englishman returns to the Parkhead squad for the second leg of their Champions League second qualifier against Cliftonville tonight after recovering from a groin strain.

Many Celtic fans may have thought they had seen the last of the former Scunthorpe player.

QPR remain favourites to sign the 25-year-old after tabling a bid reported to have been increased to around the £5m mark, but no agreement has been reached with the Scottish champions.

Ahead of the visit of the Northern Irish side, who trail 3-0 from the first leg in Belfast last week, the Celtic boss was asked for an update on the Hooper situation.

"I have no idea, to tell you the truth," he said. "But for the time being he is still a Celtic player, he is fit now and a great addition to have (for the Cliftonville game).

"You never say never (of Hooper staying). If things aren't agreed or don't go through, then he will be here for at least another year.

"I am hoping to speak to him this afternoon. I haven't had much of a chance to see him in the last week or so. I would like to (convince him to stay) but his mind may be elsewhere.

"This has been going on for the last few weeks but I will make it clear that he is welcome here and we want him to stay."

On the issue of possible transfers, Lennon revealed there were no further developments with regards Nottingham Forest target Kelvin Wilson. Celtic knocked back a reported £1.5m bid from the English side to take the defender back to his former club on Friday.

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