Lennon throws down gauntlet to Celtic fringe players

CELTIC fringe players have picked up championship medals - now they have to prove they are worthy of them.

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Neil Lennon fired a warning at fringe players
Neil Lennon fired a warning at fringe players

The challenge is being thrown down by manager Neil Lennon.

With the title safely secured, he plans to use the final six SPFL games this season to provide the platform for a clutch of players to show what they have to offer.

Lennon also wants them to prove they have the desire to be part of his plans for the future - and he has left none of those still to convince precisely what is at stake.

The Hoops boss said: "There are some players who will have to be given games - and they will have to show us that they are good enough to be here and that they want to be here.

"That creates its own hunger in itself for them.

"I also want to keep some players going because there are a few who have not played a lot of football recently, and I'd like to get some games into them."

Amido Balde - who has made 21 appearances but just two starts since signing from Vitoria Guimaraes for £1.6million last summer, scoring three goals in the process - is one of the men who still has to make his mark at the club.

Lennon has shown great patience with the 22 year-old striker, who has been quoted in the Portuguese media as saying he was disappointed with the number of games he has played for the Hoops.

Balde's last game was as a sub in the 2-1 league defeat to Aberdeen on January 25.

Lennon has no problem with him expressing his view publicly, and said: "It is good that he wants to play more.

"But it has been difficult for him to get into the team because we have been playing so well.

"Amido has a bit to prove, but he will get that opportunity with games coming up."

Even though Lennon was not pleased with the team's attacking play in the 1-1 draw against Ross County at the weekend, Balde was, once again, an un-used sub.

He preferred to bring on another man with a lot still to prove, Teemu Pukki, plus soon-to-be-departed Georgios Samaras up front, and Beram Kayal in midfield.

"I wasn't happy with our attacking play on Saturday," said Lennon.

"I thought it was a little bit rushed, and we did lack a bit of quality at times.

"But, I understand that, given the circumstances of the game."

The manager will not be so understanding if his team performs as poorly again, and is already demanding they get back to their own high standard for this weekend's final game before the split, away to Dundee United.

Lennon said: "We will make sure the season does not fizzle out.

"We have got six games to go and we will try to win them all.

"I am sure the supporters will back us all the way on that one."

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