Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been castigated by West Bromwich Albion for his treatment of Oliver Burke during the Scotland striker’s loan spell at the Scottish champions.
Luke Dowling, the sporting and technical director of the English Championship club, made the startling claim that none of their players will “go anywhere near Celtic” in future as a result of how they feel Burke was dealt with by Lennon.
Burke joined Celtic on loan in January under Brendan Rodgers. The 22-year-old scored four goals in 19 appearances, 14 of them in the starting eleven. He played in eight of the 14 matches Lennon took charge of as interim manager when he replaced Rodgers in February. Burke’s last outing was in the final Premiership fixture of the season against Hearts at Celtic Park but he was dropped for the Scottish Cup final against the Gorgie side the following week when he was not even named among the substitutes at Hampden.
Dowling did not specify the nature of West Brom’s unhappiness with the situation but pointed an accusing finger at Lennon.
“Oli Burke will not be going anywhere near Celtic with the current manager,” said Dowling. “They (Celtic) will know what went on. Oli obviously knows what happened. It is a mutual decision that he will never return to Celtic.
“We sent Oli to Celtic in good faith with Brendan Rodgers and (head of recruitment) Lee Congerton – really good people up there. They wanted Oli and I am sure they would have made him a better player.
“Once Brendan left to go to Leicester, the treatment he got from the manager in place – well, subsequently we do not expect any of our players to go anywhere near Celtic Football Club. We currently have a new manager who will start working and looking at Oli and hopefully he now has an opportunity here at Albion.”
Dowling joined Albion last year as a replacement for Nicky Hammond who, ironically, will join Celtic on 1 July as their new head of recruitment following Congerton’s departure to rejoin Rodgers at Leicester City.
Speaking as Albion unveiled new boss Slaven Bilic, Dowling has backed Burke to go on and justify the sizeable transfer fees spent on him. He moved from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig for £13 million in 2016 before returning to English football when he joined Albion for £15m the following
“Through no fault of his own, he has been bought twice for around £15m,” added Dowling. “If you look at the two fees and the number of games he has started it is a strange situation. He only played in 19 games and was twice sold for £15m.
“There were big expectations when he joined Albion. Naturally you are going to get these expectations after paying that amount of money.
“But I do not believe he really got the best chance to perform at Albion. One minute he was told he was a winger and the next minute he was told he was a centre forward.
“He had mixed messages and that is why we thought it would be a good period for him to work with Brendan and return to us a better player but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.
“He is now a player who needs some stability to show his real form.”
Celtic have been approached for comment regarding Dowling’s claims about Burke.