David McNally rules out Grant Holt swap option as Celtic reject Norwich City’s improved bid for Gary Hooper
Chief executive David McNally has ruled out the prospect of Grant Holt being used to help Norwich City land Celtic striker Gary Hooper – or any other player.
Celtic confirmed last night that they have rejected a second Canaries offer for Hooper, who is also reported as being eyed by City’s next two Premier League opponents.
The rejection of an improved bid – which Celtic manager Neil Lennon said was “nowhere near” the £6m being touted –– followed reports that City captain Holt could be on his way to Glasgow as part of a cash-plus-player deal.
Lennon insisted that he expects Hooper, who has rejected an improved contract offer, to still be at Parkhead when the transfer window closes.
And McNally laid to rest suggestions that Holt, or indeed any of the club’s top stars, would be used as makeweights to force through a deal.
“In response to (lots) of earlier messages, none of our senior players are for sale and won’t be included in any player swaps,” was his definitive tweet yesterday.
Norwich remain the only club with confirmed bids on the table for Celtic’s prolific 24-year-old, with their first £5m offering rejected over the weekend by the Scottish League champions.
But reports in London claim both Tottenham and Queens Parks Rangers are considering bids of their own.
Coincidentally, Spurs visit Carrow Road next Wednesday – little more than 24 hours before the transfer window closes – while City travel to Loftus Road the following Saturday.
It remains to be seen how serious either club is about their interest, while Liverpool have also been touted as long-time admirers of the striker.
Tottenham already have history with Hooper, having turned him away after a 20-minute trial at the age of 14 – something Hooper admitted has motivated him during his career.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas hopes to increase his strike options with a £10m bid touted for the man who cost Celtic £2.4m from Scunthorpe in 2010.
Should Spurs make such an offer, it would be hard to envisage the Canaries being able to compete. However, Hooper appears to be intent on leaving Celtic sooner or later.
Lennon revealed last night that Hooper’s latest contract offer had been on the table since October, and that the bid from Norwich was slightly improved on one submitted late last week.
“We have had an improved offer, if you want to call it an improved offer, from Norwich that’s been turned down automatically,” he said.
“It was nowhere near six million” he added. “It was completely rejected and even if it was six million it would be completely rejected.”
When asked about reports that Hooper, who has 18 months left on his current contract, had rejected the club’s latest offer, Lennon said: “It’s not the latest offer because we made it two or three months ago.
“I’m disappointed again that these things have come out in public. I’m not too sure where they are coming from but it’s certainly not us. It’s as you were. He didn’t like the look of the contract two or three months ago and nothing has changed.
“We feel it’s a very good offer. It would put him in the top two or three highest-paid players at the club. I’m sure he wants to be the highest paid but you can’t always get what you want.”
Celtic paid Scunthorpe just £2million for Hooper in the summer of 2010, but Lennon claims he cannot see chief executive Peter Lawwell and the board cashing in on the 24-year-old this month.
“Not as far as I can see it,” Lennon said. “We are very solid on that, myself, the backroom staff, Peter and the board.”
Lennon, who picked Hooper in the starting line-up for his side’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Dundee United last night and saw him score twice in a 4-0 win, added: “Come February 1, the contract offer will be withdrawn.
“They have got a lot to think about, Gary and his representatives.
“If he doesn’t want to sign the contract, that’s his decision. It wouldn’t be my advice, but it’s Gary’s decision, or his representative’s decision. We are quite comfortable with that and we respect that.
“We made this offer in October and all of a sudden it has been rejected. It’s no coincidence that it’s the last 10 days of the (transfer) window, but we are quite comfortable with the whole situation.
“I’m pretty sure Gary will be a Celtic player come February 1. We have had private chats and he is really happy here. He wants to stay, he wants to see out the season, and we will have a look at the situation then.”
As for City’s other striker target, it is thought Sunderland remain the most likely destination for Swansea’s Danny Graham.
The Black Cats and Norwich have both submitted bids for the 27-year-old, while the Swans’ pursuit of Stoke forward Kenwyne Jones could trigger Graham’s release – possibly once Swansea have dealt with their much anticipated League Cup semi-final second leg with Chelsea tonight. Either way, Swansea captain Ashley Williams does not want the striker to go anywhere.
“We definitely don’t want to see him leave and I think if you asked any player here they would say the same thing,” he said. “He is going to make the decision on whether he stays or goes. He has to make the right decision for himself and his family and his situation. Obviously, we’re telling him we want him to stay, but it’s his decision whether he stays and we will back him whatever he chooses.”
It remains all quiet on the Lee Camp front, after the goalkeeper and free agent was due to undergo a medical on Monday ahead of a proposed move to City for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, freshly departed Simon Lappin is said to be the remaining target on the wish list of Cardiff manager and former Canaries defender Malky Mackay.
Lappin spent a month on loan at the Welsh club earlier in the season and departed Carrow Road by mutual consent on Monday, leaving the 29-year-old free to find a new club.
“If we see something that can give us some defensive cover then we will do something, but if we don’t I won’t,” added Mackay.