Why Celtic must gamble on St Johnstone youngster Stevie May

Celtic Champions League

The Bhoys are on the hunt for a cheap striker this summer and the in-form St Johnstone man represents a low-cost gamble for Neil Lennon and Celtic.

The long hot summer months may be fast approaching but for Hoops manager Neil Lennon, the commencement of the post-season break will also signal the start of a long and potentially arduous search for a new striker.

Keen to maintain their grip on the Scottish Premiership whilst making progress in the Champions League, the Northern Irishman’s plans for next term have already been hindered by Georgios Samaras’ decision to leave the club on a free.

While the lack of transfer fee is undoubtedly damaging for a club keen to recoup on any outgoing player, the loss of the talismanic forward makes it a double blow for the Bhoys' plans.

After all, it takes a special kind of player to find the net regularly in Scotland and while Amido Balde offers promise for the future and question marks remain over Teemu Pukki, the reality is that Celtic have struggled to find a replacement for Gary Hooper.

Little wonder then that Lennon has expressed interest in bringing the Norwich flop back to the club, as expressed in an interview where the Hoops manager set his stall out for the summer ahead.

Quizzed on his transfer priorities for Celtic, the 42-year-old was brief in his response: “Centre- forward. Everyone is looking for one of them.”

And when pushed on a potential move for the Canaries man, Lennon was similarly downbeat.

“I’d imagine the Hooper thing would rumble on but whether we could tempt him back or not I don’t know,” he said.

But while any move for the former Scunthorpe United star is likely to prove expensive, one cut-price alternative who is likely to be available for a quarter of the fee and offers bags of potential is Stevie May.

Named as the Scottish Football Writers’ Association young player of the year this week, the 21-year-old has been the undoubted star of the show for St Johnstone, scoring 27 goals for the Perth club as part of a campaign in which he has caught the eye of many.

Much of May’s success comes down to his gradual and ultimately successful integration into the first-team, a process that began with a loan spell at Alloa Athletic where he managed a sensational 19 goals in 22 games.

A subsequent season with Hamilton Academical further cemented his reputation as a star in the making, with May scoring 25 goals in 33 appearances for the Accies.

And despite coming off after just 45 minutes of St Johnstone’s 3-3 thriller with Celtic in midweek, the forward is one option Lennon should definitely consider.

Skilful and pacey in equal measure, a strict summer workout regime has seen the striker add strength to his repertoire.

And while someway short of Samaras in stature, this new addition to his game makes him the ideal target man, and a forward capable of holding up play and bringing others into the action.

May is currently tied to the club until the summer of 2015, but should Celtic come calling with an offer for the forward, then St Johnstone may be forced into a move, rather than lose the striker on a free in a year’s time.

For now though, Lennon and Celtic fans have another reason to tune into the Scottish Cup Final between the Saints and opponents Dundee United.

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