'Hammer blow' - Chris Sutton names key Celtic transfer blunder that has left Neil Lennon facing a 'nightmare'
Chris Sutton has claimed that failing to re-sign Fraser Forster has proven to be a “hammer blow” for Celtic this season.
The Southampton goalkeeper enjoyed a hugely successful loan spell at Parkhead last term, but the Hoops were unable to secure a permanent deal for the 32-year-old.
Instead, Neil Lennon brought in Greek international Vasilis Barkas as his number one, but the 26-year-old has struggled for form in Glasgow, and both Scott Bain and Conor Hazard have been given opportunities between the sticks as the Northern Irishman looks to establish who his first choice is.
Barkas was given the nod against Rangers on Saturday, but it was his opposite number, Allan McGregor, who caught the eye with a man of the match display to help Steven Gerrard’s side secure a 1-0 win that opened the gap at the top of the table to 19 points.
And after the veteran Ibrox man’s heroics, Sutton has emphasised the importance of having a top quality stopper in a title-chasing team.
Writing in a column for the Daily Record, he said: “Not getting Forster was a hammer blow at the start of this season and that’s only confirmed when you look at what McGregor did on Saturday.
"The goalkeeping position remains a nightmare for Neil and we still don’t know if Vasilas Barkas can make a save because Rangers didn’t ask him to produce one through the entire 90 minutes in Govan.
“Not getting that nailed down has been costly and so has the defending.”
Sutton also laid some of the blame for Saturday’s defeat on centre-back Nir Bitton, who was dismissed after bringing down Alfredo Morelos with a robust challenge as he looked to run in behind the Bhoys’ back-line.
“Nir Bitton was so naive to let Alfredo Morelos do what he did”, the pundit added.
"The Colombian offered little beforehand, but you know that run is a trait of his and to fall into the trap was inexcusable by the Israeli.
“Whether you think it’s a red or not, it was a dreadful error to get into that position in the first place.
“Neil had no luck as Christopher Jullien would have been there and not Bitton had the Frenchman not whacked his knee against a post four days earlier and been ruled out for four months.”