According to The Scottish Sun, Celtic are likely to release winger Jonny Hayes this summer amid links to Preston.
It’s claimed that goalkeeper Craig Gordon is leaving when his contract expires this summer. The report adds that experienced wide man Hayes is ‘likely’ to follow him out of the club.
Both players are poised to become free agents, and won’t be required to sign short-term extensions. The Scottish football season has been ended, so Celtic are champions and no more games will be played.
That means Celtic can start planning for the summer immediately. One of the first tasks will be to sort through players with expiring contracts, and whilst defender Jozo Simunovic could stay, Hayes seemingly won’t be.
In December, The Daily Record reported that Preston wanted to sign Hayes. North End were allegedly battling Cardiff City, Middlesbrough and Stoke City, but no move materialised for the Irishman.
Preston’s alleged interest goes back even further. The Daily Express (June 22, 2018, p58) suggested that Preston wanted to sign Hayes from Aberdeen, but Brandon Barker ended up signing instead.
Hayes can offer versatility as a left back or left winger, whilst is certainly appealing. Preston don’t have many natural left-footers, and Hayes can bring that. He’s also an experienced performer, which would be valuable in a youthful North End side.
He is almost 33 though, and Preston tend not to go for players around that age. Scott Sinclair – Hayes’ former Celtic teammate – bucked something of a trend when he joined in January, so maybe Hayes will too.
Neil Lennon praised Hayes earlier this season for his reliability, pace, enthusiasm and game intelligence. Those attributes could be what Alex Neil is looking for, and the reports of his release could just attract Preston’s interest.
“He is popular among the players, he has shown a real reliability and quality. He knows his role in the squad,” Lennon told the Belfast Telegraph. “His fitness levels and pace are fantastic, his enthusiasm for the game and his game intelligence is improving all the time,” he added.