Lennon says Nir can go far as the season hits second half

Neil Lennon has tipped Nir Biton to impress for Celtic in the latter part of the season.

Loading Comments
n Caption cp cp cpcpcpc tp cpcpcpc tp cpcpcpc tp cpcpcpc t
n Caption cp cp cpcpcpc tp cpcpcpc tp cpcpcpc tp cpcpcpc t

The 22-year-old Israeli midfielder has been a sporadic figure for the Hoops side in the middle of the park since his arrival at the club in August, but put in his best performance for the club during last weekend's 7-0 Scottish Cup rout against Hearts at Tynecastle.

Parkhead boss Lennon is optimistic that he will kick on from that as Celtic concentrate on domestic duties between now and the end of the season.

Frustratingly, Biton has a viral infection that threatens his involvement at Fir Park this evening, but in the long term Lennon expects that he has much still to contribute.

"Yeah, he played well and he has been looking good," said the Celtic manager. "The only reason he hasn't played more is because he was suspended for the Champions League games and getting players up to speed for those games meant he missed out on a few league games.

"But we have high hopes for him. I think he is a very good player."

Meanwhile, Lennon has warned against anyone expecting Celtic to clobber a hurting Motherwell side the same way they did Hearts.

Stuart McCall's side are going into the game on the back of one of the most embarrassing results in their history after they were eliminated from the Scottish Cup by Albion Rovers.

The result has been met with a wave of criticism towards McCall, but Lennon has told the Fir Park support to get off the Motherwell manager's back.

"It is just ridiculous," said Lennon. "He has turned down bigger clubs to stay so they should cut him a bit of slack.

"The job he has done over the last couple of years has been tremendous and it is difficult. He has lost really good players, players who were excellent at this level - the Player of the Year last year and one of the better goalies in the league - so they should show a bit more patience and a bit more respect. It can happen.

"They are third in the league so they aren't having that bad a season. If you don't take your chances it can happen. They will be disappointed, but they just have to refocus. I hope they don't find their form against us. They have their own agenda to set, but the criticism of Stuart was totally unjustified."

Lennon's own agenda lies in ensuring he steers Celtic through the remainder of a season he hopes will culminate in a domestic double.

However, he has played down any talk of going through the league campaign unbeaten.

The club set an SPL record under Martin O'Neill when they enjoyed 25 successive victories and Lennon has told his team that it is far too early to concern themselves with any talk of equalling or setting records.

"It's too early to say," he said. "Ask me if we're still there after 20-25 games. All I'm looking for right now is consistency of performance.

"We'll not have the Champions League games to worry about, but the Christmas period will be a heavy one.

"I'm looking for consistency and there won't be any wandering minds about the Champions League after Barcelona.

"We can really knuckle down and concentrate on domestic duties, which we have done, to be fair to the boys."

Celtic should also emerge refreshed into the new calendar year after Lennon confirmed he will take his squad off to the sun for a week in January.

He said: "We're looking at a couple of options. Obviously we're taking a wee break and we'll try and get away to a training camp.

"The option is there and we decided to take it. It was highly beneficial for us last year.

"We will play a couple of games - there's talk of a four- team tournament, but that's not been confirmed yet. It might be one game or two. We might go to Turkey, but it's not cut and dried yet."

The break will be welcomed by Lennon, who has a number of issues going into tonight's game at Fir Park.

"We do have a lot of injuries at the minute so we will have to see how they all are," said the Celtic manager. "Tom Rogic has a calf strain and Dylan McGeouch has an ankle sprain. Adam Matthews started training but won't be involved.

"Beram [Kayal] has a broken bone in his foot, [James] Forrest has a hamstring problem and Steven Mouyokolo is obviously long term. A few of the boys haven't trained over the last couple of days with a virus - Biton and Georgios Samaras - so there is a wee bit of a virus going about the place that we have to keep an eye on."

And Lennon has no issue with the club playing on a Friday night.

Ironically, had Celtic still been in with a shout of landing either second or third place in their Champions League group it would have been ideal timing in order to give the squad maximum opportunity to prepare for next week's trip to Barcelona.

"I don't have a problem with it, I don't think it's a bad idea," said Lennon. "In terms of this week, it's not far for the fans to travel and it's live on TV as well.

"It's under the lights and you can have a really good Saturday and Sunday or it can spoil your weekend.

"I played a lot of times at Crewe on a Friday evening and I don't think it makes that big a difference, and with it being so local, I would expect a good crowd there.

"We played very well against Motherwell early in the season, so I'm hoping for more of the same. Fir Park wasn't good to us last year. It's a different team and players now and we will approach the game as we have approached all the other games this season."


Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.


Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email news@eveningtimes.co.uk
            Michelle McManus            

Michelle McManus


Sussed in the City


Why women are better at spotting so called 'bluff' when it comes to the independence debate.

Free swim at a Glasgow Club pool for every reader - Click here



Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You couldn’t make up half the stuff that happens to PA Janice Bell- some of the jams she gets herself into are worth a story or two.

                Games news:                

Putting the world to rights


Gail's Gab


I am convinced Scotland will become independent in five months time.

Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat Cubie’s job is to find and share with you the fabulous things the city has to offer, from gigs to gastro.