INVESTIGATIONS seem to be theme of the week at Celtic after Neil Lennon ordered one to be carried out on the pitches the club’s training centre at Lennoxtown.
The manager is seeking to have every angle covered as he attempts to find out why his players appear to be so susceptible to soft tissue injuries. Norwegian centre-half Thomas Rogne is the latest to have succumbed, having tweaked a hamstring in training on Thursday. It has left Celtic with only one fully fit first team central defender in Daniel Majstorovic for today’s crucial Scottish Premier League fixture at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Glenn Loovens is also sidelined with a hamstring complaint, as is Charlie Mulgrew. Lennon has turned the spotlight on the club’s £8 million training complex, which was opened in 2007. The manager even chose to switch training to the club’s old, and often much-derided, training park at Barrowfield yesterday as he sought to minimise the chance of sustaining more injuries before today’s clash.
“I am not being funny, we are seriously looking at the pitches up there [at Lennoxtown] as to whether they play a factor in what’s happening,” said Lennon yesterday, as he spoke with reporters at Celtic Park. “All of a sudden we are picking up these soft tissue injuries. We have to seriously look at that but we can’t train anywhere else [long term]. We had one pitch to train on yesterday and it was a pretty intense session,” he added. “Thomas just felt his hamstring towards the end of the session. It might have something to do with the fact the pitch is quite slippy at the minute and the acceleration and deceleration puts a strain on the muscles. It’s something we are looking at.”
Those fit enough to attend yesterday’s training session were asked to turn up at Barrowfield. Celtic have trained here since before even Jock Stein’s time and the pitches were in use by the club up until the move to Lennoxtown. On the subject of Barrowfield, Lennon said: “We are going there today. The surface is a lot drier and a wee bit firmer. It might be the case that we might have to train there for a little while, until we get the pitches sorted out up at Lennoxtown. But listen, this is only one theory we are looking at.”
Lennon explained why Boudewijn ‘Bolo’ Zenden was let go after his trial period at the club, and following reports that the manager had been over-ruled by the board. Lennon admitted that he had wanted to add the 35 year old former Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool winger to his squad but appeared to suggest he was concerned about making another costly mistake.
Contract talks broke down last week and the player returned home to the Netherlands. Although Zenden claimed he was not asking for an “ridiculous” amount Lennon admitted both himself and chief executive Peter Lawwell were conscious of avoiding another Freddie Ljungberg situation. The Swede joined Celtic last December on a short-term contract but started only two matches between then and the end of the season. Lennon appears content to wait for the opening of the transfer window in January before assessing his signing options.
“Listen, I liked him [Zenden] and said we’d hoped to give him a contract,” revealed Lennon. “That’s the way I left [it]. But I spoke to Peter [Lawwell] and we couldn’t agree terms and that was the end of it.
“And we are mindful of the fact we have January coming up. We didn’t want another Ljungberg situation where we offer a lot of money. Zenden’s playing record was very good but we are mindful of the fact that Freddie didn’t play as much as we’d have liked after coming in around this time last year. So that was at the back of our minds as well.
“But in terms of the board making the decision, that’s not true at all,” he added.
Celtic have, however, agreed a short-term contract with left back Andre Blackman. The 20 year-old is already on his sixth club, including trainee spells with both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Trials at both Leicester City and Oldham Athletic recently proved unsuccessful but the full-back has impressed Lennon.
“We’ve offered him a contract until the end of the season with an option for the following season,” said Lennon. “He’s impressed us, especially considering the kid’s been out of football for a year. He’s only 20 and has played a couple of matches and impressed us. We’ll have a good look at him over the next few months.”
Meanwhile, Inverness may be bottom of the league but Jonny Hayes claims they are “massively confident”.
Terry Butcher’s side have struggled for most of the season but the Dubliner, 24, is buoyed by the convincing 6-3 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park a fortnight ago.
The former Leicester winger is also mindful of the fact that Caley scuppered Celtic’s title hopes last season and played down the prospect of Celtic looking for revenge.
“We are not worried about them at all to be honest,” he said. “We look forward to the game, we are massively confident.
“We have had a couple of good performances recently and we played really well and won against them last season. The way we have been playing lately has been good enough to beat anybody.
“There is something wrong if you don’t want to play against the best players and the best teams in the league, and Celtic are one of those teams.
“But I think we need to focus on ourselves and keep up the high standards that we have set.
“Maurice Malpas (assistant) and Terry have our feet on the ground, we know hard work is the key and that’s what we look to do, out-work Celtic.”