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Mowbray desperate to keep hold of 'X-factor' McGeady

TONY MOWBRAY yesterday warned Aiden McGeady's suitors not to bother even picking up the phone as he urged the club's fans to trust his Celtic revolution.

Reports yesterday claimed that Alex McLeish was preparing an £8m bid for the Irish international.

McGeady has been on the Birmingham manager's wish list for some time and McLeish is even keener now after deciding not to meet Liverpool's asking price of £12m for Ryan Babel.

However Mowbray -- who this week allowed Gary Caldwell, Barry Robson, Chris Killen and Willo Flood to leave Parkhead -- insisted there was no chance of McGeady following them out of the Parkhead door.

"Aiden's a very important player for our club in what we're trying to build here," said Mowbray. "We have no interest whatsoever in listening to bids. Other clubs would be wasting their energy picking the phone up."

Mowbray sees McGeady as crucial to Celtic's hopes of wresting the SPL title from Rangers.

"I wouldn't sit here and say one player makes the difference," he said. "But what Aiden McGeady brings is that X-factor for us. We play against teams who put a lot of men behind the ball, but Aiden can eliminate individuals, go past packed defences, beat two and three men.

"Our financial situation is such that we don't need to accept bids for players that we don't want to sell. Players will only leave if we think it is right for the club and the team," he added.

"We know this club is not in need of money; it will be down to a contractual situation or if I want them to leave.

"We certainly don't need to take the kind of numbers you mention. To me, those are ridiculously small numbers. Talent is what it is. We are not interested in listening to bids for our players unless we are looking to move certain ones on."

Mowbray also rejected Gary Caldwell's claim that the decision to sell the Scotland defender to Wigan Athletic had been taken by the club's directors even though Mowbray had told the player he wanted him to remain a Celtic player.

"I think that's too black and white," said the manager. "There are either contract negotiations that conclude positively or go on to leading to a parting of ways and that's where we were with Gary.

"We never got to a point where there was an agreement for all parties and his contract was running out. Ultimately, a deal was done.

"The negotiations that were ongoing never came to a conclusion. An offer came in, which was taken, and that's fine. The club moves on."

Mowbray, though, was far from surprised that Caldwell chose Wigan instead of reuniting with struggling former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan in the Championship at Middlesbrough. "Last season I managed a team in the Premier League and I would suggest it had a larger salary budget than this club has got," he said.

"Wigan have been in the Premier League for a fair few years and I know, because I've tried to buy a player or two from Wigan, that after one conversation it is finished because of the salaries that the fringe players earn at that club are far in excess of what we could pay at West Bromwich Albion.

"This is a football club and we have a responsibility to run it properly, both on and off the field, and I think that's what we are doing.

"In a football context, you want as many good players as you can get. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way you lose some decent players for various reasons.

"The key is to replace them with players as good, if not better, and the quality keeps on improving. We are always focused on bringing players in and that continues but there might still be some going.


"If the opportunity comes for certain players who are looking to move elsewhere because of restricted opportunities here, and it is right for the club, then that will be allowed to happen."

Celtic host the SPL's bottom club, Falkirk, this afternoon. New signing Jos Hooiveld will miss out while he builds up his fitness, joining injured trio Scott Brown, Scott McDonald and Shaun Maloney on the sidelines.

Mowbray's men twice surrendered the lead in their last meeting with the Bairns, a 3-3 draw at Falkirk Stadium in November.

"I think Falkirk are a decent football team and we are respectful of them," he said. "They move the ball around the pitch well, although most weeks they play a different game from the one they play against teams like ourselves.

"We'll have to do both sides of the game better than we did at Falkirk Stadium because if you let Falkirk play too much, then they'll play."

The visitors will include new signing from Leeds United, Nigeria striker Enoch Showunmi, in their squad as they seek a first league win in Glasgow since 1987. Scotland defender Darren Barr, a transfer target for both Hibernian and Dundee, will also feature.

Irish Independent