Neil Lennon heaped praise on ‘reliable’ Jonny Hayes after his man of the match performance in Celtic’s 2-0 win over Motherwell at Parkhead.
Hayes has been a fringe player since signing on a free transfer from Aberdeen in 2017 but he has started the last two matches in place of injured left-back Boli Bolingoli, including Thursday’s 2-1 win over Lazio in Rome which saw the Hoops qualify for the last-32 of the Europa League.
The 32-year-old Irishman’s current deal is up next summer and Lennon admitted his performances will make it difficult for him not to be offered a new deal.
“I am delighted with him,” said the Parkhead boss, who saw goals from striker Odsonne Edouard and an own goal by Well defender Richard Tait keep his side ahead of Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership by one goal scored.
“He is popular among the players, he has shown a real reliability and quality.
“He knows his role in the squad.
“His fitness levels and pace is fantastic, his enthusiasm for the game and his game intelligence is improving all the time.
“I thought he was wonderful today. I thought he had a great game as the game went on, on Thursday, so he has been a real plus for me.
“I thought he probably had his best game today but he has played in some big games for me, cup final and semi-final, Rangers here in March, and has not let me down. He has played really well in every game.
“He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he does a brilliant job for us.”
Lennon was asked about his assistant John Kennedy, reportedly on a five-man short list for the vacant managerial post at Hibernian.
He said: “I don’t want him to go for a start.
“It doesn’t surprise me, because he is a superb coach.
“It is a feather in a cap for John if that is the case but as far as I’m concerned he won’t be going anywhere, he is very integral to what we are doing here.”
Lennon was “delighted” with Celtic’s performance and result which keeps his side top of the table going into the international break.
He said: “It’s a great performance, another clean sheet, another good win.
“I thought we could have won the game by more.
“I don’t remember Motherwell having a shot on target and that speaks volumes for how the team is playing.
“It has been a great week, a great few weeks, eight wins in all competitions, I can’t ask for any more.
“It has been fantastic. Now we take stock.”
Well boss Stephen Robinson was similarly pleased with his side’s performance against the champions, if not the result.
He said: “I thought it was a good performance.
“I thought our shape worked very well, we contained them a lot and had a threat going forward.
“There were a lot of positives. I thought we were very well organised, the boys carried it out to the letter.
“Could we have had more of a threat in the final third? Yes.
“But they wear you down. Credit to the level you are playing against.
“You don’t beat Lazio if you are not a top-class side.”