Neil Lennon expects Celtic arrivals but ‘unaware’ of Albian Ajeti capture

Manager won’t confirm reports that West Ham United striker is on brink of joining Scottish champions

Leigh Griffiths shakes hands with David Gray following Celtic's 3-1 friendly win over Hibs at Parkhead. Picture: SNS
Leigh Griffiths shakes hands with David Gray following Celtic's 3-1 friendly win over Hibs at Parkhead. Picture: SNS
Leigh Griffiths shakes hands with David Gray following Celtic's 3-1 friendly win over Hibs at Parkhead. Picture: SNS

Neil Lennon insists he is 
unaware of the imminent arrival at Celtic of West Ham United striker 
Albian Ajeti on a season-long loan, writes Stephen Halliday.

It is understood the 
Scottish champions are close to agreeing a deal for the 23-year-old Swiss international which would also give them the option to sign him on a permanent basis for £5 million next year.

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Lennon admits he expects Celtic to add to their squad before they begin the defence of their Premiership title against Hamilton Accies on Sunday but could not confirm the capture of Ajeti.

“I’m not aware of that,” said the Celtic manager after his team’s 3-1 friendly win over Hibs at Parkhead on Monday afternoon.

“I was talking to [head of football operations] Nick [Hammond] and [chief executive] Peter [Lawwell] on Monday and hopefully we will have some sort of resolution this week.”

As Lennon looks to bolster his striking options, he was delighted by the return to action of Leigh Griffiths as a substitute in the win over Hibs which saw the Scotland international set up two goals for Polish striker Patryk Klimala.

Griffiths looked sharp in his 30 minutes on the pitch, having returned to the first team squad after being left out of their earlier pre-season preparations by an angry Lennon after the 29-year-old failed to maintain adequate fitness levels during lockdown.

“Leigh was great,” said Lennon. “He looks great and it’s the best I’ve seen him in a long time, in terms of how he looks in his conditioning.

“I am delighted with his response in terms of what we’ve asked of him. He just has to maintain it now as he will be a real asset for us – no question.

“We will see how he is in the next few days and how he is feeling. He thinks he might need a week to ten days, or something like that. But we will gauge that as we go.

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“Klimala got his goal at the end and I wasn’t sure if he got the final touch on the one Leigh dinked over the goal.

“Patryk worked hard again. There are aspects of his game he needs to improve on. But you can see a sea change in his demeanour and he’s getting used to the British game now.

“It’s a totally different game to Polish football and we have been pleased with his attitude and how he wants to progress.

“It can be difficult coming to a new environment but he’s made his point and he’s headstrong.

“He wants to be part of it and wants to bulldoze in and make a contribution, so we are happy with that.

“You can’t have enough good strikers in the building. Leigh has missed a lot of football over the last few years but at 29 he is still at his peak. He just has to maintain that now.

“But it doesn’t change the fact we will look to bring one in. Vakoun Bayo is out with a hamstring injury but we are hoping he will be fit at some stage next week. But that game will have done both Leigh and Patryk the world of good.”

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