Celtic boss Neil Lennon thinks outside the Box

CELTIC will be boxing clever when they face St Johnstone today, having made it their New Year resolution not to take their foot off the gas in the charge for a third league title in a row.

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Neil Lennon says Fraser Forster will be staying in January
Neil Lennon says Fraser Forster will be staying in January

After 16 unbeaten games, the Hoops are 11 points better off than they were at this stage last season.

Then, they clinched back-to-back titles with four games to spare, getting over the line with a 4-1 win against Inverness on April 21.

Ten points clear and with a game in hand this time around, and with the half-way point in their season not due to be reached until they face Partick Thistle on New Year's Day, Celtic are on course to be crowned champs again as early as March.

But, despite all these positive stats, and with assistant Johan Mjallby and players speaking about remaining unbeaten for the remainder of the season, Neil Lennon is determined not to allow complacency to put the momentum they have built into reverse.

So, it will be his strongest side at Perth today, and throughout the heavy festive programme which continues with a hazardous trip to face Inverness on Sunday.

Lennon said: "It's a very important period we are coming into now.

"We have two very difficult away games. But, the players are in good shape, and we are beginning to get some good players back now."

Adam Matthews returns after a fever ruled him out of the win over Hearts while Tom Rogic is finally fit again.

Lennon wants strong competition for all the places in the side because he reckons the strain of playing so many matches, including 12 in Europe, will eventually take its toll on his Bhoys.

He said: "We'd like to keep the unbeaten run going for the foreseeable future, but we know with the conditions being what they are and the opposition that the games are going to test us."

He is continuing his search for new faces to augment his squad, and confirmed a decision will be taken over the holiday period on Hiroki Yamada, who has returned to Japan following his trial at Lennoxtown.

Lennon said: "We're endeavouring to bring in new bodies, obviously quality as well.

"We need an injection of that."

He could face an even bigger battle to hold on to the stars he already has, and reports there is no further progress on trying to persuade Georgios Samaras and Joe Ledley to sign new contracts.

Fraser Forster's future is also the subject of much speculation as he tries to nail down his place in England's World Cup squad.

Lennon accepts that, eventually, the keeper will move on, but he will not encourage any predators for now.

"We have no offers for him and there is no apparent interest in him," he said.

"I'm sure there will be further on down the line, but I'm pretty confident we will have him for the remainder of the season.

"He's quite happy here, for the time being, anyway. Inevitably, it will be difficult to stop his progress, as it is with most players now. But, in the short-term future, he will be here."

It will take a huge offer to persuade Celtic to let him go, but Lennon is not prepared to reveal what the number would be.

He said: "I'm not going to put a price on Fraser. We don't have a set fee.

"However, we value him very highly."

Forster's value would rocket if he could make it to Brazil, and Lennon said: "I'm pretty confident he will, and that would be fantastic for Fraser."


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