Soro is”very reliable”, “bulldoze” Klimala and expect Karamoko “around the first-team squad this season” says Neil Lennon

NEIL LENNON has ever reason to be satisfied after the double header of BCDs home matches against Ross County and Hibs gave just about every member of the Celtic squad a game as the two Celtic teams secured comfortable victories.

And the Celtic Manager has just as much reason to be pleased as the hard work in the transfer market seems set to pay a double dividend over the next few days with the signing of goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas from AEK Athens on a 4 year contract and striker Albian Ajeti from West Ham on a season long loan deal with an option to buy, both just being a medical away from completion.


After the win over a strong Hibs side yesterday Neil Lennon spoke to the media and couldn’t hid his delight.

“It was an excellent performance. I was very pleased,” the Celtic Manager stated, as reported by Scottish Sun. “We did really well in the first half and that continued in the second. The players enjoyed it and they will get the benefit of that over the next few days.

“Some of the boys haven’t played a lot of football so the 90 minutes was badly needed. We have sort of staggered it a bit in France so it was important to get two games over the weekend.

“I was pleased with Sunday and Monday’s games so it sets us up nicely for the weekend. Ideally we would have liked more games but the club has done as well as it can under the circumstances.”

There were real positives watching that Celtic side yesterday, which apart from Olivier Ntcham, was made up of reserves and fringe players, with Leigh Griffiths starting on the bench, before coming on to secure the win.

One player who looks first team ready is the impressive Ismaila Soro who looks like being a real contender for the Scott Brown role when skipper finally calls it a day and hangs up his boots.

The modest transfer fee paid to Israeli side Bnei Yehuda back in January could turn out to be money well spent. “Soro did well. I have seen big improvements and he looked good,” Lenny stated. “That’s exactly what we want from him. He was very reliable.”

Joining Soro in moving up to become a permanent member of the first team squad will be young Karamoko Dembele, who levelled the scores just before the interval to grab his first senior goal for the club after being set up by the ball-winning determination of Olivier Ntcham.

“We want Karamoko around the first-team squad this season. It’s that time now when he is going to be training with us all the time,” Lennon confirmed. “He may dip in and out and we just need to be careful with him as he’s still only 17.

“I was delighted with what I saw from. He scored and helped assist the second. He’s looking stronger as he goes along and the more he trains with the first team the better he will get.”

And Lennon’s harsh words directed at Leigh Griffiths before his exclusion from the French trip looks to have paid immediate dividends – with the number none coming off the bench to formal a lethal partnership with Patryk Klimala – who cheekily stole in to tap a Griffiths net-bound effort over the line!

“Leigh was great and he looks great,” the Celtic Manager admitted. “It’s the best I’ve seen him in a long time, in terms of how he looks in his conditioning. I am delighted with his response in terms of what we’ve asked of him.

“He just has to maintain it now as he will be a real asset for us – no question. Will he be ready for the weekend? We will see how he is in the next few days and how he is feeling.

“He thinks he might need a week to ten days, or something like that. But we will gauge that as we go. Leigh has missed a lot of football over the last few years but at 29 he is still at his peak. He just has to maintain that now.”

Klimala’s goal grab will have fuelled additional rivalry within the squad. Odsonne Edouard, who has yet to emerge from his summer slumber,  will remain the first pick striker but with Lennon ofter preferring to go with two up top, the battle commenced yesterday for the vacancy and both Griffiths and his Polish rival look determined to win the starting spot.

“You can’t have enough good strikers in the building,” Lennon noted.  “Klimala got his goal at the end and I wasn’t sure if he got the final touch on the one Leigh dinked over the goal.

“Patryk worked hard again. There are aspects of his game he needs to improve on. But you can see a sea change in his demeanour and he’s getting used to the British game now. It’s a totally different game to Polish football and we have been pleased with his attitude and how he wants to progress.

“It can be difficult coming to a new environment but he’s made his point and he’s headstrong. He wants to be part of it and wants to bulldoze in and make a contribution, so we are happy with that,” Lennon said.

The Celtic Manager also confirmed that the other striker in the squad, Bayo, is out again with yet another hamstring issue.

“Vakoun Bayo is out with a hamstring injury but we are hoping he will be fit at some stage next week. But that game will have done both Leigh and Patryk the world of good. But it doesn’t change the fact we will look to bring one in.”

That one he’s looking to bring in is Albian Ajeti who enjoyed a brief but very productive spell at FC Basel playing alongside Moi Elyounoussi when the goalscoring was free and easy for the pair of them.

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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