NEIL Lennon has accused Peter Shilton of speaking from a position of ignorance after the English goalkeeping legend claimed Fraser Forster is not being tested properly while he is playing in Scottish football.
Celtic manager Lennon is unhappy with Shilton’s comments, made earlier this week, and believes they are potentially damaging to Forster’s reputation if taken seriously.
Shilton, who was assessing England’s goalkeeping options for this summer’s World Cup Finals in Brazil, stated that Forster has “very little to do every week” for Celtic and that he would have a stronger claim for a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad if he was with an English Premier League club.
“Those comments do the player an injustice and are really unfair on Fraser,” said Lennon. “How does Peter Shilton know? How often has he watched Celtic play?
“Comments like those are certainly not helpful. I don’t know if he’s seen Fraser play live or if he’s been to any games here. If he had been here over the past two or three months, then he might change his mind.
“It sounds like it’s maybe a throwaway remark from Peter, but sometimes those are the ones that can do the most damage.
“Peter was one of the world’s best goalkeepers and had such a prolonged career with England but remarks like that are not helpful and certainly not encouraging for Fraser. To be honest, I don’t think people should take much notice of it.”
Forster has forced his way into the England set-up on the back of his consistent form for Celtic both domestically and in the Champions League. The 25-year-old has just set a new all-time club record of 11 consecutive clean sheets in league football.
He now hopes to equal the all-time Scottish league record of 12 successive shut-outs, set by Bobby Clark for Aberdeen in 1970-71, when runaway Premiership leaders Celtic host St Johnstone on Sunday.
With Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart still regarded as England’s first choice, Forster appears to face a battle with Ben Foster of West Bromwich Albion, John Ruddy of Norwich City and Jack Butland of Stoke City for the remaining two slots in Hodgson’s World Cup squad.
Lennon, who has freely admitted he anticipates transfer interest in Forster from English top-flight clubs this summer, is confident the former Newcastle man will not miss out on the World Cup because he plays in Scotland.
“We know what a good goalkeeper Fraser is and I think he has done enough to warrant a place on the plane to Brazil,” added Lennon. “I think Fraser will go to Brazil. I haven’t been given a heads up on it, but he’s certainly within the top three English goalkeepers.”
Lennon, meanwhile, has confirmed striker Tony Watt will definitely be returning to Celtic in the summer when he completes his season-long loan deal with Lierse.
The Belgian Pro League club have expressed an interest in signing Watt on a permanent basis in the wake of a rich vein of form which has seen the 20-year-old score seven goals in his last five games to steer them away from the relegation zone.
But Lennon has made it clear he intends Watt to be an integral part of the Celtic first-team squad next season.
“Tony will definitely be back in my plans,” said Lennon. “The whole reason for sending him away was to get games under his belt. He’s enjoying the current spell, playing well and scoring goals, but he’s our player and he’s coming back.”