Lennon ready to rewind and regroup at Celtic

IT'S going to be yet another case of deja vu for Neil Lennon as the transfer window prepares to re-open.

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Neil Lennon clinched the signing of Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk early in last summer's transfer window
Neil Lennon clinched the signing of Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk early in last summer's transfer window

The script for the coming three months promises to be a repeat of the last couple of summers.

The Celtic manager will try to hold on to his best players, move quickly and early to recruit a bit more quality to augment what he already has, but, ultimately, mark time until he discovers if his side have negotiated safe passage to the Champions League - and the mega-money this will unlock.

That, in turn, will see the green-for-go button pressed on a frantic last few days of transfer activity before the window closes again.

Little wonder the Parkhead boss is looking forward to a well-earned holiday with his family before plunging into the fifth summer transfer window of his managerial career.

In theory, he should be better placed than in any of the four previous, given how healthy the club's finances are following consecutive qualifications for the group stage of the Champions League and the sale of multi-million pound stars.

But Lennon - who will sit down this week with chief executive Peter Lawwell, pictured right, to firm up initial plans for player recruitment - is naturally cautious when he considers what might be available to him.

He said: "I think we have got a bit of money to spend.

"But, again, I believe it will be pretty consistent with what we have done in the last couple of seasons.

"We will gauge where we are by the end of the qualifiers, if we are in the Champions League or not.

"Hopefully, then we can add a little bit more."

With the qualifiers starting for Celtic in mid-July, Lennon does not have the luxury of sitting tight before commencing his business, and admitted: "We would like to do a bit of business before the World Cup starts."

However, as he has discovered in previous close seasons, not every other club or agent is working to the same time scale, or is in such a hurry to do business.

"That's very true, and it is difficult," acknowledged Lennon, who was successful in bringing in Amido Balde and Virgil van Dijk in the first few weeks of last summer's window.

"We will take what comes our way," continued the Hoops boss.

"I can't say we will sign a player in a week or two, or that we will sign five by the end of the transfer window.

"I don't know how we will do, is the honest answer. There are so many permutations that go into doing a deal these days."

What Lennon does know is the strength and depth of squad he already has at his disposal at Parkhead.

They had not recovered from the loss of Victor Wanyama, Gary Hooper and Kelvin Wilson when they played in the group stage this season, and European stalwart Joe Ledley has left since then, with Georgios Samaras about to follow him out the exit door.

So, when asked if he had to go with what he now has how he thinks they would fare, Lennon answered honestly: "I think we might have enough to qualify, if we can keep our best players.

"I think we would do okay. It just depends on the emergence of Stefan Johansen and Nir Biton playing at that level. They're going to be important."

Lennon had targeted the January window as more important than usual as he wanted to get players in to allow them time to bed in before they faced the qualifiers, with Leigh Griffiths and Johansen hitting the ground running.

"It was not just the impact they made when they arrived, they also sparked the other players," Lennon reflected.

"It's always good to have the fresh injection of quality. It gives the players a lift, as well.

"Instead of seeing players going out the door on a consistent basis, bringing some quality players in appeals to the group."

Football

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