Healy defended after mimicking flute player

DAVID Healy's agent has defended the Northern Ireland international after he mimicked an Orange marcher in Fulham's friendly against Celtic on Saturday.

Healy pretended to play a flute after coming on in the second half of the 3-1 win over the Scottish champions.

The incident revived memories of a similar gesture by Paul Gascoigne when he played for Rangers in a 1998 Old Firm game. Gascoigne's actions were viewed as provocative because Celtic's fans are usually sympathetic to the Irish nationalist cause and he was fined 40,000 by the Ibrox club.

But Healy's agent, Stephen Hughes, insists his client was merely responding in kind after he was targeted by the visiting supporters at Craven Cottage.

Hughes said: "David has told me he was wearing boots with a Northern Ireland flag on the back. They had been made for him to celebrate being the leading scorer in the Euro 2008 qualification matches.

"The Celtic fans saw that and know he's a Rangers fan.

"They were chanting, 'Where were you on the 12th', which is the day of the Orange marching bands in Belfast. So he simply pretended to play the flute – there was no attempt to inflame the fans.

"Afterwards, some of the fans who had been giving him stick sent over programmes for him to sign which he did quite willingly."

Celtic went down 3-1 in the match as Bobby Zamora marked his Fulham debut with a stunning strike. Zamora completed his move from West Ham last Tuesday and wasted no time opening his account when he unleashed an unstoppable drive from the edge of the area after only three minutes.

A moment of brilliance from strike partner Erik Nevland set up the chance and the Norwegian also got on the scoresheet with a well-taken goal. Celtic dominated between the first-half goals and deserved their 42nd-minute response from Barry Robson, who curled home a slick free-kick.

But the outcome was put beyond doubt when Denmark defender Leon Andreasen powered home with five minutes to go.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said: "Both sides were a bit rusty with their passing, us especially in the first 20 minutes.

"We had lazy minds for the first 20 minutes but once we cleared that, I thought we put a good show on."

Meanwhile, Motherwell hope to tie up a loan deal for Celtic defender John Kennedy early this week. The 24-year-old joined the Lanarkshire side at their training camp in Austria last week and is set to stay at Fir Park until January.

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee said: "I don't see any barriers to stop us signing John. We just need to sort out the financial side and I had hoped it would have been done by now."

Spanish midfielder Angel Robles and German player Mark Le Rande will not be offered deals following their trial spell, but former Celtic winger Jim O'Brien and Millwall keeper Lenny Pidgeley will keep training with Motherwell.

"Pidgeley will get another chance and the same goes for Jim," McGhee added.

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