Football: Celtic facing battle to hang on to talents of Viduka

Celtic 4 Hibernian 0
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A YEAR ago today, Mark Viduka sparked a manhunt across several continents when he disappeared hours before he was due to make his Celtic debut. While the Australian's mental faculties were thrown into doubt, his navigational ones were not: Viduka turned up Down Under, sitting under his native Melbourne sunshine as his new team-mates saw the title trail go cold without him.

Well, the Glasgow weather has not changed any, and neither, it seems, has Viduka, who is itching to go walkabout once more. The man from Oz has been linked with several Spanish clubs and even proclaimed his desire to move to Tottenham Hotspur. But if he takes the latest offer of alternative employment, then Celtic should insist on a sanity clause in the transfer deal.

TheFrench club Lens are ready with a pounds 6m offer when the French transfer window opens in a fortnight, but Viduka, who had the former Celtic chairman Fergus McCann so exasperated a year ago that he ordered the AWOL Aussie to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, needs his head examined if he walks away from Parkhead.

On Saturday, his every move was hailed by 60,000 fans as his combination of raw power and delicate poise cut Hibernian apart. He bagged the penalty to launch the victory which took Celtic to within a point of Rangers, albeit with two more games played.

His Porsche sits in the club car park and the bank balance is healthy, so why get lost in France? True, Lens have probably the most passionate of all French fans, but if Viduka felt depressed when he checked into Glasgow last winter (from Croatia Zagreb), then he should wait till he gets to the depressed steel town: it's like Motherwell, with the good bits taken out.

Viduka is one player John Barnes does not want to scare away. "I thought Mark was excellent," raved the under-pressure coach. In the absence of Henrik Larsson, Viduka is carrying the goal burden - Saturday's was his 16th - and his rousing style provides a rallying point for fans riven by internal division.

It was Viduka's flick which released Lubomir Moravcik for a wonderful solo goal and then he unselfishly set up the flawless Slovakian with another, before Morten Wieghorst's audacious chip completed the rout.

"Celtic were pretty irresistible," sighed the Hibernian manager, Alex McLeish, and his counterpart, Barnes, was glad to agree. "I thought we played well in the cup against Dundee but the players never got the praise because the headlines were all about me. Hopefully that has all been put on the back burner now - or, until the next time, obviously," he grinned.

Barnes also confirmed Celtic have made an approach for the Brazilian defender, Raefael Schiedt, 23, valued by Gremio at pounds 6m. Viduka would be made to leave by the other door.

Goals: Viduka pen (18) 1-0 , Moravcik (29) 2-0, Moravcik (59) 3-0, Wieghorst (86) 4-0.

Celtic (3-5-2): Gould; Mjallby, Stubbs, Tebily; McNamara, Lambert, Berkovic (Petta, 72), Wieghorst, Riseth (Petrov, 72); Viduka, Moravcik (Burchill, 72). Substitutes not used: Kerr (gk), Wright.

Hibernian (3-5-2): Colgan; Hughes, Dennis, Jack; Collins, McGinlay (Lovell, 63), Latapy, Brebner, Smith; Miller, Paatelainen (Lehmann, 73). Substitutes not used: Gottskalksson (gk), Bottiglieri, Hartley.

Referee: S Dougal.

Bookings: Celtic: Viduka, Riseth. Hibernian: Hughes.

Man of the match: Moravcik.

Attendance: 60,092.

n Raith Rovers have appointed Peter Hetherston as their new manager on a two-year contract. Hetherston had taken over at the First Division club on a caretaker basis following last week's surprise dismissal of John McVeigh. The Raith midfielder, Kenny Black, steps into a coaching role as Hetherston's assistant. "I'm delighted to take this job because there's a great foundation in place at Stark's Park and now we just have to draw together," Hetherston said.

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