NEIL LENNON yesterday admitted Aiden McGeady might have played his last game for Celtic as he revealed the winger would not start Wednesday’s crucial Champions League clash with Braga.
For the second time in five days, McGeady was yesterday missing from the Hoops squad 24 hours after manager Lennon had been certain the winger would be available to play.
On both occasions – last Wednesday’s third qualifying round first leg in Portugal and yesterday’s Emirates Cup clash with Arsenal – the 24-year-old was declared injured.
Lennon insisted he had no reason to doubt McGeady, who is the subject of transfer speculation, with Spartak Moscow having bid a reported £9.5 million (€11.5m) for his services.
However, the Republic of Ireland international’s lack of game time during pre-season – the sum total of which was Saturday’s 58-minute cameo against Lyon – means he will not start the Champions League second leg in two days’ time.
After admitting it was even possible McGeady would not play for the club again, Lennon said: "He complained of a calf injury this morning, so we left him out.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen this week – we’ll have to wait and see.
"As regards Wednesday, I don’t think I could possibly start him. At best, he’d probably be a substitute."
McGeady was omitted from the squad for the first leg with a back problem.
Anticipating conspiracy theories about his absence yesterday, Lennon said: "Look, Aiden is not one of these guys to make things up – I’m being genuine with that.
"He’s in a difficult situation at the minute. I’ve been there myself. Towards the end of my time at Leicester, there was some interest from Celtic.
"Your head’s all over the place and I think he’s just in that place at the minute.
"He doesn’t fake injuries; he wants to play football; he’s always wanted to play football. So I have to take his word for this one."
Yesterday’s game was attended by Finland boss Stuart Baxter, who Celtic have long been pursuing as a mentor for managerial rookie Lennon.
Confirming Baxter’s input on an advisory basis only, Lennon said: "He was here, yeah. He’s just here to watch the game, really, and have a chat.
"He will be an advisor when I need him, if and when I do need him."
As well as McGeady, captain Scott Brown was also missing yesterday, as was new signing Joe Ledley.
Lennon confirmed neither were injury doubts for Wednesday, with both expected to start at Parkhead.
Of the XI which took to the field yesterday, only Lukasz Zaluska, Jos Hooiveld and the impressive Efrain Juarez appear certain of their places in the side.
For the second day in-a-row in the Emirates Cup, Celtic netted two late goals.
But unlike Saturday’s match with Lyon, in which they were 2-0 down, they fell 3-0 behind to Arsenal, who scored through Carlos Vela, Bacary Sagna and Samir Nasri.
Georgios Samaras missed a penalty for the Hoops before Daryl Murphy and Ki Sung-yeung set up a grandstand finish.
An equaliser would have given Celtic the Emirates Cup but Lennon felt it was his side’s inability to defend set-pieces that ultimately cost them.
"The frustration is conceding the goals," he said. "I don’t know if it’s a footballing issue or a team mentality issue. But it’s big moments in games that we’ve got to see through. Then we had a great comeback, and some of the football we played in the last half-hour was fantastic, absolutely fantastic."
Meanwhile, Lennon shrugged off any interest in Valenciennes and Ivory Coast left-back Siaka Tiene, but did confirm striker Cillian Sheridan could be on his way to CSKA Sofia.
He said: "There’s been an offer from a Bulgarian club and we’ve given him permission to go over and see what he thinks."