Treble talk banned as Lennon tells Celtic to keep eye on ball

Neil Lennon has banned his players from talking about a possible Celtic treble this season.

The Parkhead side are two points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League ahead of today’s home game against Dundee United.

Lennon’s men eased through their William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at Peterhead last week while they face Falkirk in the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final at Hampden at the end of the month.

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The Irishman was at Celtic Park yesterday to pick up his Clydesdale Bank Premier League manager of the month award for December, with midfielder Victor Wanyama collecting his young player of the month award.

Asked if he had instructed his players to leave out all talk of the treble, he replied. “Absolutely. You know what it’s like. The build-up, the build-up and build-up and one bad day and it’s gone.

“I have already said the treble is an almost impossible thing to do so I don’t want any talk of that. There is no point in talking about it at the minute.

“The longer it goes on the more people will ask us the question but players have to dismiss that and concentrate on the job in hand.

“Teams have taken points off us already this season and anything can happen on any given day. So it is important not to take our eye off the ball and take each games as it comes. I know it is an old cliche but we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Lennon, though, was quick to praise his players when discussing his award.

“It is a testament to the team and the consistency they have shown,” he said. “I am pleased with what we have shown and I think there is motivation to keep things going. The confidence is there which comes from winning games.

“I was confident in them [earlier in the season] but for varying reasons we weren’t playing well but I’ve found that they are more settled now.

“December was a big month but January is a big month as well. Dundee United are a dangerous team so we have to keep our focus.”

Lennon is still trying to strengthen his squad and revealed that Nigerian midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim, 20, and Icelandic winger Ingolfur Sigurdsson, 18, will extend their trial period.

He said: “We are just having a look and they will be here for another couple of days. But we have been impressed by both of them.”

The former Celtic skipper, though, admits he is “bored” with the transfer window. “I don’t like it,” he said. “I think we should go back to having an open market throughout the season.

“You have to do all your business in a short period of time and it is very difficult to do that at times.

“I get bored with it. I get bored answering the same repetitive questions, speculating on players coming in and going out and I can only reiterate that I don’t want to sell any of my players and if I can add one or two to my squad then I will try and do that. But January is a difficult time, clubs want to hold on to their better players and negotiations can be difficult. But we are still looking. If there is a player who can make us better we will look at it.”

Lennon does not expect to see Efrain Juarez back at the club this month despite reports he is set to end his time at Real Zaragoza. The Celtic midfielder moved to the Spanish club on loan at the start of the season.

Lennon said: “I am not aware of that. He is on a year-long loan so I would expect Zaragoza to adhere to that, unless we are told differently. I know there has been a change of coach there but I have no contact from Juarez or his agent, so it’s as you were, really.”

The Celtic manager revealed that defender Mark Wilson and Glenn Loovens are back in training after recovering from respective knee and hamstring injuries while stopper Daniel Majstorovic, who sustained a fractured cheekbone against St Johnstone in December, could be back for the cup semi-final against Falkirk.

Meanwhile, winger Gary Mackay-Steven has signed a contract extension with Dundee United until May 2015.

The 21-year-old former Liverpool player joined United last summer after a successful trial and has impressed sufficiently to agree a new three-and-a-half year deal at Tannadice.

Mackay-Steven said: “I am delighted with my recent form but I also know that I have plenty to learn in the game. I see Tannadice as the ideal place to do that right now.”

Manager Peter Houston said: “Ever since we got him match fit, he has progressed gradually each game and he is now very much part of our first-team squad. His commitment in wanting to ply his trade here at Dundee United was obvious from the start and, although he still has a lot to learn in the game, I have no doubt that if he continues to progress, he will have a massive future in the game.”