Jozo Simunovic injury now makes signing a defender a big January priority for Celtic

By John McGinley

September 29, 2019

Celtic manager Neil Lennon confirmed late last week prior to the weekend’s football that Jozo Simunovic is going to be missing for a period of months, as reported by The Scottish Sun.

The player has recently undergone surgery and the lengthy lay-off means he is now expected to be missing for a period of three or four months.

As quoted by the paper, Lennon said: “You are probably looking at three to four months.

“He is alright, it is a blow for us and the player. He felt it was a necessity and thankfully it is not a micro-fracture again, which is a serious operation where you are out for six to eight months.

“He has had a clean-up and obviously we have to tread carefully on his rehab – the sooner we get him back the better.”

It’s a tough break when considering the manager’s defensive options, which since last season had already seen a depletion in numbers.

Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien remain available, but beyond that duo, a bit of creativity is required.

Nir Bitton has been utilised as a defender but is naturally a midfielder. Likewise Hatem Abd Elhamed is available to fill in, but was signed this summer as a right-back.

If things get desperate, Jack Hendry is on hand but he’s made just one substitute appearance under Lennon. He clearly isn’t rated.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

January need

Thinking back to last season, not only did Celtic have Ajer, Bitton, Simunovic and Hendry available, but Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic too. It’s clear that we are weaker in the area this season, in terms of depth if not quality.

Simunovic’s expected return may occur around the winter break, giving him a chance to get fit for the second half of the season, but the Croatian simply can’t be relied upon to return at the top of his game.

He has a history of injury issues and it’ll take a big shift from him to get back to peak fitness.

A quality centre-back is now a massive priority in the upcoming transfer window, even if just on loan.

With our recruitment hopefully improving after exit of Lee Congerton, under Nick Hammond’s supervision, hopefully we have the scouting system in place that can identify that player.