NEW Celtic signings Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven have rejected claims from Dundee United that they forced the Tannadice club’s hand to bring about their moves to Glasgow in the closing hours of transfer deadline day.
United supporters have reacted furiously to the sale of the pair in a package worth just over £2 million only six weeks before the Tayside club face Celtic in the final of the League Cup. The pair are now cup-tied. Fan outcry over their departures, which followed the club’s insistence they had no need to sell after wiping bank debt and raking in £4m from transfers last year, led United to release a statement in which they said they had to part with Armstrong and Mackay-Steven because the duo “made it clear” they wanted to leave.
As he was paraded at Celtic Park yesterday following a deal believed to be worth around £1.8m with add-ons, Armstrong made it clear he had voiced no such demand. “I don’t think I actively expressed that to them [that I wanted to leave],” said the 22-year-old, who had 18 months of his contract to run.
“It was in the club’s control and the club is responsible for accepting or rejecting bids. I just had the role of being expected to come and speak and explore what this club [Celtic] is all about. I don’t know the exact wording of the statement, but I would say that I didn’t actively push myself out the door. I think I was quite relaxed about it and waited for the clubs to accept or reject and came here once it happened.”
Armstrong said he had not angled for any move in recent days. “I wasn’t thinking too much about what I wanted at the time,” he said. “It was just a case of, once the bid was accepted there were things to consider such as European football and winning things. It was a fantastic opportunity and one I couldn’t turn down.”
Mackay-Steven, meanwhile, said he thought the tenor of the United statement was unfair when Celtic had paid United’s asking price of £250,000 for him following the pre-contract agreement that he signed in early January.
“At the start of the month United wanted X for me,” said the 24-year-old. “It wasn’t until deadline day that figure was met. So then it was a case of me talking and all that stuff. But it was all about the clubs talking and a fee was agreed.
“I said before, when I signed a pre-contract, that I was delighted to have my future secured at a club like Celtic.
“But I had a great four years at United. I never once kicked the door down and asked to leave because I had always been happy and was happy. It was just a massive opportunity for me here. It has happened sooner than I expected, but that’s great and I will get my head down and work as hard as I can.”
United’s statement, posted on the club website yesterday, said: “Both Gary and Stuart made it clear to management that they wanted to leave Dundee United to further their careers elsewhere.”
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