By Grahame Greeen
Updated Thursday, 24th February 2011
The side that Neil Lennon is building could go on for years
Nine of the players who featured in Celtic's 3-0 win over Rangers on Sunday were aged under 24, with Daniel Majstorovic the oldest player in the team by six years. Manager Neil Lennon, himself only 39, has mostly bought players aged in their early 20s since taking over, and Gary Hooper admits he feels more comfortable in such a young environment. He believes the youthful dynamic has been key to driving them on this season. The English striker, who scored two of the three goals on Sunday, believes the dynamics of the squad are helping produce a winning team spirit.
The 23-year-old said: "I've never played in a side that's full of so many young players. There are only a couple older than me. The management are young as well so that makes it really easy to get on with them. We all have a laugh in training, not just the players, and that's all part of the team bonding. We do have some experienced players, which makes it a good mix, but overall it's a very young team. I think the youth in the side helped when I first came to Celtic because I didn't stand out as the youngest. There were quite a few younger than me so it worked out well. We're bonding really well and everyone is up for a laugh. There's a lot of banter in the changing room but I don't think that's necessarily because we're young, you will get it in every team, but it's probably got a lot to do with us all being a similar age."
33 year old Majstorovic has captained the side on occasions this season but Scott Brown, 25, is the regular captain and Hooper feels able to relate to him. Hooper said: "We don't really have a father figure in the dressing room. If there was to be one, though, it would probably be Daniel. He joins in with some of the banter but he's a lot older than us. Our captain is young too and I think that makes a big difference. Browny sets the standard in games - he's never shy to go in, tackle and get everyone going. He's always up for a laugh too and I think you need someone like that leading the side off the pitch."
Hooper, who has scored 15 goals in 21 appearances for Celtic, is looking to strike for the first time against Motherwell on Sunday. The former Scunthorpe forward has missed both games against the Steelmen this season, which Celtic have each won 1-0. Hooper said: "It will be interesting to see what Motherwell are all about. I watched the two games against them earlier in the season when I was out injured and they are of a good standard. They try to pass the ball around but hopefully we can crack on and get the three points."