Lennon searches for experience to strengthen Celtic title challenge

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The Independent Football

Celtic are looking for "experienced winners" to bring success back to the club, assistant manager Johan Mjallby has revealed.

Former Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng, 34, this week joined the club on trial following his release by Hull as Neil Lennon looks to add to his first two signings as Celtic manager. Lennon, who last week brought in South Korea international full-back Cha Du-Ri and Charlie Mulgrew from Aberdeen, has also spoken to former England defender Sol Campbell and Hull midfielder Jimmy Bullard over possible moves.

Lennon and Mjallby led Celtic to eight consecutive Scottish Premier League victories after taking over in March, but the club still finished six points behind Rangers and ended the season without a trophy. The Swede revealed mental strength was one of the main requirements as Celtic's new management team continue their recruitment drive.

"It's important to have experience in the side," Mjallby said. "We like winners at this club. Sol Campbell, he has had a great career. George Boateng has done very well, he has been down in England playing for a few clubs there and played very well.

"It's always nice to get a couple of experienced winners in, guys who are very strong in their minds and know what they want on the pitch. That's what we are looking for. Even Jose Mourinho is probably looking for players in every department and so are we."

The former Celtic defender added: "When I first came here, we had a lot of good ball players in the side. We lacked a wee bit of steel. I think we lacked a wee bit of mental strength. You could see away from home we dropped too many points last season and conceded too many goals.

"If you want to be successful, you need to be able to grind out results, especially away from home. Be strong, win the battle before you can start to play good football.

"You want to win every game and you want to win in style, but you don't always get that chance."

Boateng is one of several trialists at Celtic, with 22-year-old Montenegro forward Slaven Stjepanovic and 25-year-old Le Mans full-back Ibrahima Camara also looking to earn a move to Glasgow. Mjallby added: "There are a couple of players trying to come in and being on trial. It's a good chance for us to have a look at them in training.

"George Boateng has only been here a day and there has been a lot of running. Hopefully he can stay on for a couple of days and we can have a good look at him when it comes to football as well.

"Slaven has been training for a few days with us. For all the players the first few days has been just running and not too much football. We have started to get the balls out now and it's a better chance for us to have a look at them."

Celtic also remain hopeful of signing winger Joe Ledley from Cardiff. The 23-year-old has been shown round the club's training facilities and Celtic have an advantage over English clubs in the race for his signature given he would be able to move for free under cross-border transfer rules. Mjallby said: "I hope Joe Ledley thinks the same, that it's an advantage for him to play for Celtic. It's a great chance for him to win trophies and have an even more successful career.

"If you have a chance to play in Europe and play against the best teams it's good for your career and a chance for you to develop even more."

New Celtic first-team coach Garry Parker has targeted a clean sweep of trophies in his first season at Celtic Park. But the former Aston Villa and Leicester midfielder is well aware of the size of task which faces the Hoops.

The aim now is to wrest the SPL title from Rangers' grasp and prevent their Old Firm rivals from claiming a third successive championship.

Parker said: "Your aim is always to win everything you enter. But I can't come in here and say we're going to do this and do that. We've just got to be judged on each game as it comes and hopefully if we can win enough games then at the end of the season we'll be in a position to win the league. The hardest thing in football is winning football matches but that is what we want to do, and we want to win as many as we can."

Parker played alongside Lennon at Leicester and revealed how the Northern Irishman promised him a coaching role when he landed his first job in management. "It's a good opportunity and I'm looking forward to it," said Parker, who worked with Martin O'Neill in the scouting department at Aston Villa.

"I've known Neil a long time, we played together at Leicester and he always said if he got a management job he would want me to come with him so we've stayed in touch. We're quite close.

"I came up to Glasgow on Wednesday and I'm staying with Neil so he's been telling me all about the place. I'm looking forward to getting started.

"Everything here is lovely, the training ground is lovely and the facilities are good."

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