Joe Ledley's optimistic that Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama are in for the long haul at Celtic

The predators currently circling Neil Lennon's squad are arguably the biggest compliment the Hoops boss can get.

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Joe Ledley has been battling against a pelvic injury
Joe Ledley has been battling against a pelvic injury

Since taking over from Tony Mowbray, Lennon has reconstructed a Celtic side on a relatively modest budget.

His eye for a player has enabled him to construct a strong spine within the team, and one which has been capable of living up to the most intense scrutiny in the Champions League, the most demanding arena of all.

But keeping that squad together for any significant time was never going to be possible.

Keeping them for as long as he possibly can will be the aim, and if Celtic can make it to the closure of the current transfer window having resisted the offers that have come in, then Lennon will be quietly satisfied.

Fraser Forster, Gary Hooper, Adam Matthews and Victor Wanyama are all players whom most observers would expect to be able to make the transition to the English top flight. When they move is now what matters most.

The last 16 of the Champions League will soon come into sharp focus. Few would realistically expect Celtic to see off Juventus and put themselves into the quarter-finals of the lucrative tournament, but that will not be the way Lennon either views or approaches the tie.

And if he is to harbour ambitions of pulling off another almighty shock in the competition then he needs his best players available to him.

Hooper is wanted by Norwich, who will test Celtic's resolve on the matter by returning with further bids this week. There will be some who will feel that the player himself could possibly aim higher than a team who were thumped 5-0 at the weekend by Liverpool, and with Champions League football on offer at Celtic, there is some credibility to the argument that Lennon has a decent carrot to dangle in front of the striker.

Joe Ledley, another who could well be expected to transition south of the border, is optimistic that not only Hooper but Wanyama will remain at the club beyond the current transfer window.

The Welshman knows just how demanding the double-header against Juventus will be and it is the physical strengths of the Kenyan that he believes so often make Celtic tick.

"A lot of the squad have been linked with moves but, at the minute, I think we are just of the opinion that it is just that – speculation," he said.

"Until anything really happens then they are all Celtic players and I think the manager would ideally like to have them here for a long time but, failing that, then at least until the end of the season."

He went on: "From my point of view, I want them to stay. I'd like to see the team stay together because, as a unit, I think we work very well together.

"But I would have to say that Victor is one of the guys who just gets us going.

"He is a different sort of player to any I have ever played with before. Victor is strong and he can take the ball in and bully people and really dictate the game from the middle of the park.

"I think most of us would say that he is really vital to us. People forget that he still a really young guy, but he has so much experience now and you can imagine that he will go from strength to strength as he develops through his career.

"But here at Celtic just now he is a massive player. I hope he is here until the end of the season and beyond because he really does give us so much."

Hooper and Ledley are also close friends off the pitch and Ledley believes that there is no danger of any of the current speculation unsettling the striker.

He said: "Gary hasn't said much about it, but I know him and he is always focused on his football.

"I don't think there is any way that he would allow himself to be distracted from things on the park.

"It is all just talk at the minute. Hopefully when the window closes we'll still have the same squad and then we can see what happens in the summer."

Ledley could find himself having to seek further medical opinion over whether he can make it to the end of the season. The midfielder has been afflicted with a similar pelvic complaint to the one that Scott Brown struggled with in the opening half of the campaign, although as of yet he is in the dark about whether or not he may have to go under the knife.

An injection has enabled him to return to the side, but whether or not that will be sustainable over the coming months is difficult to predict.

"Nothing has been said about an operation or anything like that," he said. "I have had my injection and I just take it day by day. Some days I wake up and it's fine, others it is really painful and I know I have to rest. It feels fine just now and I think the break in Spain helped, but it's something we need to monitor."

Celtic take on Dundee United tonight and Ledley's target is to be part of a Hoops side that enjoys a domestic clean sweep this season.

"That's our aim," he said. "We want to do as well as we can in all competitions. With the players we have, I think anything can happen.

"But we are a bit wary of looking too far ahead. There is a lot of football to be played and it's important we take it slowly. It's a really exciting time for us because we are alive in four competitions and there is so much for us to look forward to.

"I want to play my part as much as I can in all these games. Right now it is just nice to be back playing. After the game on Saturday I did think to myself that on another day I would have got myself on the scoresheet but I'm happy with how things are going.

"There are a lot of games on the horizon and I want to play an active part in them."

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