Shutdown may have cost me new Celtic contract says Jonny Hayes

Winger surprised by decision to release him after earlier assurances from management duo

Jonny Hayes was released after his Celtic deal expired at the weekend. Picture: SNS
Jonny Hayes was released after his Celtic deal expired at the weekend. Picture: SNS

Jonny Hayes believes his departure from Celtic may have been prompted by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the champions.

The Republic of Ireland international winger was released by Celtic when his contract expired at the weekend, while the club decided not to take up the option of another year on the deal of Croatian defender Jozo Simunovic who has also been handed a free transfer.

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Hayes admits his own exit came as a surprise as he had been told by both manager Neil Lennon and his assistant John Kennedy that they intended keeping him as part of the first-team squad for next season.

The 32-year-old, who scored twice in 39 appearances for Celtic after being signed by Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2017, feels football’s current shutdown could have been the decisive factor in him not being offered a new 
contract.

“I’d spoken to Neil Lennon a couple of days before the Rangers game back in December,” revealed Hayes.

“He was aware I was out of contract in six months – and he wanted me to stay. As the season went on we had similar conversations and he was quite keen for me to stay. He saw me as part of his plans. 
I had the same conversation with John Kennedy. So, when it comes down to the decision being made this week, I don’t know whether the financial impact the coronavirus has had on Scottish football has contributed to it or not.

“But I know that I wasn’t leaving the club, sort of being phased out, and was still playing regularly from the bench, coming on or in the team, until this virus struck.”

Hayes has been linked with a move to Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City, while his former club Aberdeen were previously interested in taking him back to

Pittodrie.

He admits that would appeal to him but is again concerned that the financial consequences of Covid-19 might weigh

against it.

“I’ve always loved Aberdeen, there’s no doubt about it,” Hayes told TalkSPORT. “Even playing against them, I wouldn’t say it was emotional but it was strange.

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