Former Scotland international Alan Hutton believes that Celtic midfielder Jonny Hayes could be lured to an English club given his lack of starts for the Hoops.
The 32-year-old has made 16 appearances for Neil Lennon’s side this season, although 13 of those have come from the bench, and The Scottish Sun reported this week that English Championship clubs Swansea and Stoke are keen to sign him.
Hayes is out of contract at Celtic at the end of this season and Hutton thinks he could leave Parkhead for England as he enters the twilight of his career, while also highlighting the fact that he is often Lennon’s favourite plan-B.
Speaking to Football Insider, Hutton said: “It’s been difficult for him as in he’s not played week in, week out but ultimately when he’s been needed he’s been the go-to man. Neil Lennon seems to favour him when he needs to make a change or stuff.
“Maybe he would think of going down south, his last two, three-year contract, it would be nice to go down south and experience something different. He works hard, every time he comes in he’s up and down, he looks fit.
“It’s going to be difficult. I think he’s probably torn between his love for Celtic and a move down south.”
With Hayes not managing to hold down a regular starting berth at Celtic and approaching the final years of his playing career, it’s quite understandable why Hutton feels he could be tempted to move on from the club.
It isn’t just this season in which the Republic of Ireland international has had a sparsity of starts for the Hoops, either – he started just six Premiership games in his first season at the club in 2017/18 and seven last term (five in the regular season, two after the split).
Even getting minutes off the bench has been a struggle for Hayes, who featured in only 32 Premiership games in his first two years at Parkhead, although he has been called upon off the bench frequently by Lennon this term.
Hayes has probably been a victim of his own versatility and the form of others at the club – the Irishman has plenty of experience on either flank, whether as a winger, wide midfielder or full-back, and has also played right through the centre of midfield and even up top. [via TransferMarkt]
That ability to adapt to a variety of roles will be something that the manager loves about him, as Hutton alludes to, but unfortunately it means he has become the utility man, rather than a fixed starter in one position.
Also, in Hayes’ preferred wide midfield positions, James Forrest has been excellent on the right with 11 goals and 12 assists this season, while Mohamed Elyounoussi has come in on loan to score seven goals and set up another six from the left flank.
Now into his third season at Celtic and still struggling to get a regular place in the first XI, the 32-year-old could be ripe for persuasion by another club to try his luck elsewhere. For all his manager’s praise, it would make sense for him to move on.
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