Lennon hopes Celtic hitman Hooper stays

NEIL LENNON is confident he will not be forced into any last-minute buying spree – because there will be no late January sales from Parkhead.

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Neil Lennon hopes squad remains unchanged
Neil Lennon hopes squad remains unchanged

There have been no enquiries regarding Victor Wanyama, and Spurs have removed themselves from the race to sign Gary Hooper.

That leaves only Norwich in the running to try and lure the striker south, but they will have to significantly increase their second offer – believed to be no more than £5million – to even catch Celtic's attention.

Lennon insists the money men at the club stand firmly alongside him in repelling all raiders. And the Hoops boss has made it clear it is not a case of anyone matching their valuation – because they are refusing even to put a price on Hooper's head.

Lennon said: "I reiterate, I don't want to sell Gary, and the club does not want to sell him, and I think we remain pretty steadfast on that. We have only had one club interested and we have had two separate bids. It was nowhere near.

"We haven't even asked for a price. People say. 'Name your price', but I am not putting a price on him."

The nightmare scenario for Lennon has always been that a mega-offer arrives as the window is about to close, one which the club feels unable to reject, and which the player himself makes it clear he wants them to accept.

That would leave the Parkhead boss with little or no time to re-invest the money before the window slams shut tomorrow night, and his side stripped of their main goal threat.

Lennon admitted: "It's very difficult to get anyone in during the four weeks of the window, never mind the last couple of days. We are talking hypothetically here. There is no reality to it so far.

"If and when a huge bid comes in, then we will take it as it comes. But, my objective is, on the first day of February, to have Gary Hooper playing for us."

Lennon has always been aware it is in these final couple of days that situations can dramatically change as managers panic.

The man who is trying to defend the SPL trophy and plan for Champions League ties against Juventus is no fan of the mid-season transfer window.

He explained: "It's just a mad rush for a month where you are living in a world of uncertainty. You are, at times, vulnerable, and at times not sure of what you are going to have at the end of the month.

"I'm trying to prepare for games and, in the back of your mind, you are wondering what players am I going to have. That throws up huge uncertainties in managers' thoughts."

Lennon's immediate aim is to select a team to beat Kilmarnock tonight, and Lukasz Zaluska will again start in goal as Fraser Forster continues his recovery from a neck injury.

The manager said: "Fraser is progressing slowly. He is not going to be available for this game, but Sunday, against Raith Rovers, may be an opportunity for him.

"We don't want to rush him back and aggravate the injury. We want him 100 per cent because he is such an important player for us with the huge games coming up in the next few weeks."

Lennon confirmed new signing, Tom Rogic, has returned from Australia and could be in contention for a debut on Sunday.

He said: "Tom has been away getting his permit authorised by the British Embassy and he may be available."

However, Efe Ambrose will remain on international duty at the African Cup of Nations after Nigeria last night defeated Ethiopia to qualify for the knockout rounds which begin this weekend.

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