NEIL Lennon is confident his Celtic team could hold their own in England, and believes the Premiership is not as far ahead of the Scottish game as it is often claimed.
And he is convinced some of his most promising young players will reach the very top.
Asked if he thought 20-year-old Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama could go all the way to the highest level in the game, he replied: “I think so. I think James Forrest (pictured) definitely could. He could go now. I think Wanyama could go now. Adam Matthews could go and play at a higher level. I think Thomas Rogne has got a bit of work to do to get there, but he is in a really good place at the minute.
“Charlie Mulgrew could play Premier League, Joe Ledley, Gary Hooper, Anthony Stokes, Georgios Samaras. The majority of them could play Premier League.
“It would be wrong for me to single any of them out, because you just don’t know where they are going to be in four or five years but, at the minute, I would have no problem taking this team to the Premier League and playing.”
The prospect of the Old Firm competing in the English top flight arises from time to time but Lennon insisted he was not trying to revive that debate and had “no idea” if it was still a possibility. “All I know is that people keep saying the English League is so far ahead of the Scottish one, and in some respects it is but this team could play in the English Premier League from what I have seen.
“They would do all right. I don’t know where we would be, but I don’t think we would get relegated.”
“Not just the quality but the prestige, the name, the support, the tradition, the history,” he continued when asked what he thought Celtic could add to the Premier League.
Lennon had a traumatic start to last week, when he was a pallbearer at the funeral of his friend Paul McBride QC on Monday then gave evidence in the trial of two men who are accused of attempting to murder him. He insisted, however, that his team’s preparation for today’s League Cup final against Kilmarnock has not suffered.
“The start of the week was very difficult, but preparations really don’t start until two or three days before a game. There’s not a lot you can talk about on a Monday or Tuesday. On a personal level, yes, it was a tough couple of days, but it is over and done with and I have got something to really get my teeth into. I have lost a good friend and I will deal with that in my own way but, as regards my job, it won’t affect that one bit.”