Neil Lennon praises ‘priceless’ James Forrest but reveals Bayo is out for six weeks and faces surgery

Neil Lennon described James Forrest as “priceless”, with the Celtic manager declaring that even the Scottish record transfer fee of £25 million would not reflect the value of a player who yesterday agreed a new four-year deal, writes Andrew Smith.

Injury lay-off: Vakoun Issouf Bayo
Injury lay-off: Vakoun Issouf Bayo

The 28-year-old Scotland winger celebrated his new contract with a goal in a hard-fought 2-0 victory over St Mirren that took his tally for the season to ten. And Lennon, who revealed that striker Vakoun Bayo, pictured, faces six weeks on the sidelines with a knee problem, believes such returns make Forrest an irreplaceable asset.

“James was brilliant,” said the Celtic manager, whose side retained top spot in the Premiership on goal difference after scoring two immediately after the interval, with Mohamed Elyounoussi breaking the deadlock.

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“We gave him a new deal and I don’t care how much money we pay… he’s priceless to me. What would he cost? A goalscoring winger who has been doing it consistently for ten years and won treble player of the year awards. You’d start the bidding at £25m. That’s what I would ask for anyway.

“But he’s not going anywhere – we’ve got him secure and he’s happy. I’m sure there has been interest in him but James has never wanted to leave. He is inventive and that’s him got ten goals already this season. That’s an amazing return. You saw his quality, scored a brilliant goal and was exceptional. James is in his peak years and is part of a front four that can be devastating when they turn it on.”

Captain Scott Brown came off with a thigh strain late on, but Lennon said he expected him to recover in time for the Betfred Cup semi-final against Hibernian on Saturday at Hampden.

The news on striker Bayo, though, he said was “no good” after the Ivorian hurt his knee in training on Monday.

“He may require surgery,” said Lennon. “He is seeing a specialist I think on Monday. If he does need surgery then we are looking at six weeks. Leigh [Griffiths] is back training tomorrow but we will have to see how his condition is. It could take him a week or so or knowing him he could come banging on my door and saying ‘put me in’.”

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin felt his team got their gameplan half right on an evening when results elsewhere condemned them to bottom spot. “The first half was satisfying in what we’d set up to do,” he said.