NEIL Lennon has expressed his confidence Fraser Forster will remain a Celtic player for the rest of the season and insists it will not damage his prospects of being in England’s World Cup finals squad.
Speculation has intensified that the Celtic goalkeeper will seek a move during the forthcoming January transfer window in a bid to nail down a place in England manager Roy Hodgson’s plans for next summer’s tournament in Brazil.
Joe Hart, Hodgson’s preferred first choice ‘keeper, has returned to the Manchester City first team, leaving what appears to be a battle between three men for the two remaining goalkeeping berths in England’s 23-strong squad. Forster is in competition with Norwich City’s John Ruddy and West Bromwich Albion’s Ben Foster, the latter having now returned from a long-term injury.
Reports in the English media suggested Hodgson is concerned at the level of competition Forster is involved in with Celtic for the rest of this season, following their elimination from Europe earlier this month.
But Celtic manager Lennon said he has no fears about losing Forster in January and the 25-year-old will only be sold at a time and price of the Scottish champions’ choosing.
“Looking at how the situation is, we have no offers for Fraser and there is no apparent interest in him,” said Lennon.
“I am sure there will be interest further on down the line, but I am pretty confident we will have him for the remainder of the season. Fraser hasn’t indicated any concern to me about his situation. He is quite happy here, for the time being anyway.
“I think inevitably it will be difficult to stop his progress, as it is with most players now. But in the short-term future, he will be here. Last summer, he maybe had concerns, but we sat him down and talked it through. I spoke to him myself and he also had a good chat with (chief executive) Peter Lawwell. That sort of reassured him on all aspects he was seeking reassurance on.
“For the type of money we are looking for if Fraser was to be sold, it depends on whether people are willing to pay. We will be looking for a significant figure for him, because we value him very, very highly.
“I’m not going to put a price tag on Fraser today. It was different times when Craig Gordon went to Sunderland for £9 million. That was six years ago now and Sunderland were willing to pay that amount of money, but we don’t have a set fee for Fraser.
“However, we value him very highly. He’s one of our big players and has been for the last few years. If bids do start coming in for him eventually, we will take them on their own merits. You have to take the player into consideration as well. Fraser has been a real success story in my time as manager. One of the best things we have achieved here is getting a player into the England squad in such a specialised position. We just want him to keep going and concentrate on his club football here.
“Hopefully, he will be on that plane to Brazil. I’m pretty confident he will be and that would be fantastic for Fraser. I don’t think being at Celtic has hindered him – far from it. It’s been the exact opposite. It has done wonders for his career.”
Lennon is seeking to enhance his squad next month as he assesses Celtic’s defence of the championship and Scottish Cup, along with their prospective Champions League qualifying campaign which will begin in July. “We are endeavouring to bring in new bodies, obviously quality as well,” he added. “We need an injection of that. I am really pleased with the consistency we have shown this year domestically. I am really pleased with the players who have been around this league for three or four years, because they have been at the top of their game for the last 18 months to two years.
“They have played a huge part in why we have done really well but the squad needs a jag now and again. These players like to see fresh players coming in with a bit of quality. It gives them a lift too. Going forward, there is no question we could do with a bit of flair, a bit of creativity in the team. That is what we are looking to do but I am very pleased with what I have got as well.
“There is too much doom and gloom around for me when people talk about our squad. People want to analyse the game to death – look at it, nip at it.
“I think the players are playing very well. We lost a quality centre forward in Gary Hooper and we have found it hard to replace him. But that was always going to be the case. If you wanted to replace like for like, then you have to spend six or seven million pounds, and in the environment we are in at the moment, you can’t do that.”