CELTIC centre half Kelvin Wilson will be asked to give one last effort to the Celtic cause in tonight’s Champions League qualifying clash with IF Elfsborg as he stands on the brink of a £2.5 million return to former club Nottingham Forest.
It is understood that the defender is close to sealing a move back down south but Celtic manager Neil Lennon is still willing to place his faith in the centre half ahead of such a vital match. Celtic’s ambition to qualify for the Champions League group stage hinges on defending a 1-0 lead in the second leg of their qualifying tie with Elfsborg, who have lost just once in 27 games on their own artificial surface. Lennon was remaining tight-lipped in Sweden yesterday but the manager acknowledged that it was an “unsettling period” for Wilson, who has been linked with a return to Forest for several weeks. Lennon also admitted that the 27 year-old, who has a daughter in Nottingham, is suffering homesickness.
However, he added that the player was mentally robust enough to put aside thoughts about his future tonight and focus on the task of helping Celtic qualify for the play-off round.
“He is a very good pro,” said Lennon. “I’ve known him for a long time, I understand the difficulties sometimes. Certain situations crop up and you deal with them the best you can.
“You have to think about the player as well as the situation at the club. He is important to us and will be important tomorrow night. He is in the right frame of mind to play, which is a huge bonus for us.
Lennon added that efforts are on-going to persuade Wilson, who joined Celtic from Forest on a pre-contract deal in January 2011, to remain at the club. “We’ll try but it could be his mind is already made up,” he said.
Asked if tonight’s Champions League qualifying second leg tie with Elfsborg could be his last appearance for the club, Lennon said: “I don’t know. Possibly.
“He has family in Nottingham, a young daughter, and he finds it difficult being away from that family environment. That is the crux of his situation.”
Celtic’s preparations have been further hit by an injury to former Ajax striker Derk Boerrigter, who hurt his ankle just 33 minutes into his debut on Saturday against Ross County.
The Dutch player hasn’t travelled to Sweden, but Giorgios Samaras should be fit to start after being rested at the weekend after picking up a toe injury. “He’s still a wee bit tender, but we’re hoping that, with another 24 hours and a little bit of treatment, he should be OK,” said Lennon, who has been left to try and replicate last season’s achievement of qualifying for the group stage with a markedly inferior squad. Wilson’s likely exit follows the departures of Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper, who have joined English Premier League clubs Southampton and Norwich City respectively.
“All I want to do is qualify, then we will take it from there,” said Lennon. It’s going to be more difficult without that calibre of player.”