Neil Lennon backed £7million defender Christopher Jullien to make an instant impact at Celtic and then challenged fellow new boy Luca Connell to do the same.
A whirlwind 48 hours of activity saw central defender Jullien become the club’s first arrival of the summer window from Toulouse on Friday, with Connell arriving on Saturday from Bolton for a nominal development fee.
The need for defensive reinforcement has been acute since the departures of Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic at the end of last season and Lennon declared himself delighted at landing his first-choice signing.
Neil Lennon backed £7m defender Christopher Jullien to make an instant impact at Celtic
‘Jullien has been our No1 target for quite a while so it’s really good to get that deal established,’ said Lennon, speaking after his team’s friendly victory over Wiener SC last night.
‘I think he is pleased about it too.
‘The good thing with Jullien is that his wife is British and that will be a big help in terms of him settling.
‘He is certainly not a project. He is hopefully going to come in and hit the ground running.
‘He might need a bit of work to start with and we’ll need to integrate him with the squad but he is coming in to play.’ Jullien is expected to join his team-mates over the next couple of days and he could feature in the next warm-up match against Swiss side St Gallen on Tuesday.
Connell flew into Vienna in time to witness Leigh Griffiths and Vakoun Issouf Bayo score the goals in a 2-1 win and is viewed as one to watch for the future.
‘Luca is a young player and we like the talent,’ said Lennon. ‘He will be a welcome addition to the squad – he is bubbly and a good footballer.
‘He did some good things in a short space of time at Bolton.’ Bolton, who are currently in administration after years of financial difficulties, have accepted around £350,000 in compensation for a player who was called into the last Republic of Ireland squad by Mick McCarthy.
Central defender Jullien became the club’s first arrival of the summer window from Toulouse
The club’s administrators originally denied Connell permission to cancel his contract but accepted the move once Celtic threatened a legal objection.
A midfielder who can also offer cover at left-back, Connell broke into the Bolton team in January and made 12 appearances for the Championship club.
Lennon added: ‘Obviously there was an opportunity there to take him and I think the club acted in really good faith with Bolton.
‘We will see how it goes. We couldn’t ignore his talent and he is one we want to develop. He may dip in and out or he may come and hit the ground running, we will need to wait and see.
‘He has a good range of passing, is well balanced, has good vision and at 18 we think he has a good chance to make a name for himself.
‘He came to my attention a few months ago so we have been working away in the background.’ Clearly relieved to get those two deals over the line after the collapse of David Turnbull’s transfer from Motherwell, Lennon insisted there is no more imminent business in the offing.
The Celtic boss (right) reacted to the question of a move for Luton full-back Jack Stacey as ‘speculation’, while there has been no fresh bid for Kieran Tierney since Arsenal made an initial £15m offer earlier this month.
‘It’s been nice and calm. I know there will be more speculation but I am on the phone to Peter (Lawwell, chief executive) all the time – I speak to him more than my missus at the minute!’ said Lennon.
‘We are spinning plates and we hope to bring a couple more in.’ Tierney has returned to Scotland to continue his rehab following a double hernia operation and he will join Australian playmaker Tom Rogic at Lennoxtown.
Lennon declared himself delighted at landing his first-choice signing and wants him to shine
‘Tom is not here,’ explained Lennon. ‘He picked up an ankle injury in the cup final and we knew he would be three to four weeks anyway.
‘He could do all his rehab work at home. Kieran has gone back home to finish off his rehab, too.
‘We are hoping that by the time we get back, Tom will be back on the training ground.
‘He still had issues with his knee towards the end of last season and to be fair to the kid he probably needed a rest.
‘He has been playing World Cups and Asian Cups, maybe not 100 per cent. We will get him back up to speed as we go along and that will do him the world of good.’ Although Celtic missed a load of chances against their Austrian third-tier opposition last night, Lennon declared himself satisfied with the work-out.
A goalless first half saw captain for the night James Forrest twice hit the woodwork and miss a header at the back post, while winger Maryan Shved’s first outing for the club proved frustrating.
Just as in the midweek win at Pinkafeld, Lennon changed his entire outfield team at half-time and within minutes they had fallen behind to a bending and twisting free-kick from Jakov Josic. Griffiths almost immediately restored parity, charging down the keeper before slotting home his second goal of the tour.
Bayo had looked lively even before his decisive contribution, which arrived as he slammed home a volley from Jonny Hayes’ left-wing cross. It was an impressive way to reintroduce himself.
‘I’m really pleased with him and would have been even if he hadn’t scored,’ said Lennon of Bayo. ‘He has had a good week. He is a nice addition to the squad and gives us something a bit different.
‘I thought technically, and his play in general, he was very good.
‘We could have won the game seven or eight nil so I was delighted.’