Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

I backed move to bring Strachan back to Celtic: Lennon

Gary Hooper gets Celtic off to the perfect start with an early goal but they were left hanging on for victory at the end

Celtic 2 Dunfirmline 1: Celtic moved to within seven points of Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders Rangers with a win over Dunfermline — and afterwards manager Neil Lennon revealed that he recently backed a plan to bring former boss Gordon Strachan back to Parkhead.

Striker Gary Hooper and midfielder James Forrest capitalised on slack early play by the visitors to give the Hoops a comfortable half-time lead before Lennon raged in frustration at the profligacy of his side who spurned numerous chances.

Midfielder Ki Sung-yueng even missed the target with a penalty after the break, before a goal by Pars striker Andy Barrowman with four minutes remaining saw the home side glad to hear the final whistle.

Speaking after the match, Lennon said a deal to re-employ Strachan had been “pretty close” to being agreed.

Strachan managed the Hoops from 2005 to 2009 and was approached by the Scottish Premier League club in September to join as a mentor to Lennon.

While the deal fell though, former Celtic captain Lennon admitted he supported the move.

“Gordon is someone I respect totally and he wasn't averse to the idea but it never materialised,” Lennon said.

“It was an idea that we've bounced around for quite a while. We were pretty close to it.

“But it was almost eight weeks ago now that the decision was made, and we've moved on since then.

“It is something that I'm not averse to, depending on who it is and whether the circumstances are right and whether we feel we need it.”

On the back of last night’s win, Celtic play St Mirren on Saturday and could close the gap further before Rangers travel to Kilmarnock on Sunday, but Lennon will have his players practising their shooting before then.

The Ulsterman's plans have been disrupted by injuries all season but he made two changes through choice rather than necessity for the visit of the Fifers.

Winger Kris Commons replaced Georgios Samaras, with midfielder Ki in for left-back Badr El-Kaddouri, as Joe Ledley moved into defence to replace the Moroccan.

The Pars were architects of their own downfall, starting from when Hooper opened the scoring in the sixth minute.

Midfielder Paul Willis played a loose pass in-field from wide on the left which was picked up by the former Scunthorpe striker, and he raced clear of the stunned visiting defenders before slipping the ball past Paul Gallagher.

The second goal from Forrest came in the 13th minute after Pars defender Alex Keddie gave possession away in the middle of the park, allowing Celtic to break.

With the Dunfermline defence exposed Commons played in Anthony Stokes inside the box.

Although Gallagher saved his low drive, the ball broke to Hooper who set up Forrest to guide the ball home from eight yards.

Celtic captain Beram Kayal had a drive from 25 yards which Gallagher blocked with his feet, moments before Commons had an effort which sailed over the bar.