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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 20, 2006

Hibs captain Caldwell to join Celtic

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan today confirmed the pre-contract signing of Hibernian captain Gary Caldwell.

Quickly following on from the end-of-season capture of Wolves striker Kenny Miller, the Bank of Scotland Premier League leaders have strengthened their back four for the future with the summer arrival of the Scotland international central defender.

It was the worst kept secret in football and the imminent arrival prompted a section of the Hibernian supporters to jeer the 23-year-old during their defeat to Aberdeen at Easter Road last week.

But the Hoops boss admitted this afternoon that Caldwell would join Miller in moving to the east end of Glasgow in the pre-season.

Strachan said: 'He's coming here in the summer and there will be no deals done now.'

Caldwell's arrival is Strachan's 10th signing since he moved to Celtic Park in the summer.

The youngster follows Roy Keane, Shunsuke Nakamura, Maciej Zurawski, Mark Wilson, Miller, Paul Telfer, Artur Boruc, Mo Camara and Adam Virgo to the Glasgow giants.

Caldwell faces more flak from the Hibernian fans against Dunfermline tomorrow, while Miller also fears a reaction from the Wolves supporters.

But Strachan praised the pair for their honesty.

He joked: 'I think Gary's back-pass could have a lot to do with the crowd's response last week.

'People will have to get used to this happening in this country.

'These players have been honest and are not kidding anybody else on.

'They have been open in saying they are going to Celtic - but they still want to do a job with their clubs.

'Players are not doing anything wrong in this new free contract system, and people will have to get used to it.'

Strachan was keen to point out the swoop for Miller does not signal the end for John Hartson.

'Not at all,' said the Scot.

'You need four good strikers if you are going to be a top club.

'We have lost three, so we have four strikers who have various strengths - good in the air, on the ground and pace. You have to cover all those assets as a striker.'

Strachan revealed the 26-year-old's goal-scoring performance in Scotland's World Cup qualifying 1-1 draw with Italy at Hampden Park in September convinced him to make a move.

'He has got better in the last couple of years, and his awareness of the people around him is better,' said the manager.

'His performances at international level, especially against Italy, have been impressive.

'People will say `Why did you sign him?' and I will say `Well, he played against one of the best defences in the world and absolutely battered them'.

'He scores goals and defends from the front. People talk about letting in goals. But if you can defend from the front and stop the ball going from their half to our half all the time it saves the other team having an attempt at goal.

'His work-rate is phenomenal; he has a change of pace and can score goals.'

Strachan is also looking to make more signings, with Debrecen's Hungarian winger Peter Halmosi catching the eye.

The 26-year-old, also attracting interest from Crystal Palace, has impressed on trial.

Strachan added: 'He has been training with us, and I will have a meeting with him and his advisers.'

The Celtic boss has ruled out a move for former Tottenham striker Steffen Iversen and Lecce's Finnish international midfielder Alexei Eremenko, who has failed to show up for a trial.

'I don't know where Eremenko went to?' shrugged Strachan.

'He was supposed to come here on trial but hasn't made it here. Iversen won't be coming here.'

Strachan expects Didier Agathe to leave Celtic in the summer but is refusing to freeze him out of the first-team picture if he can stay fit until the end of the season.

He said: 'If you look in the physio's room there is a calendar which tells you when everybody is fit, and more than two thirds of the season he has not been in training.

'Injury and performances of other people on the right-hand side have kept him out.

'He can talk to clubs, and that can take your focus off what we are trying to do here.

'Even last week there was interest, and he spoke to one or two people. But at this time it is maybe not conducive to play him when his mind is elsewhere.

'He trains with us when he is fit - I'm not one of those managers who make them train with the kids.'

Agathe has been frustrated by a recurrence of his problems.

'We thought he was all right the other week; then he got another injury. It's up to him if he moves in the window.

'I know he's had the opportunity to move on, and clubs are interested. But he's not interested in moving at the moment.

'If he is fit and ready to go then I will use him, because he has strength and he has got pace.'

Stanislav Varga could also come in from the cold, with Strachan down to the bare bones in defence for Sunday's Bank of Scotland Premier League trip to Motherwell.

Stephen McManus is suspended, and Bobo Balde is away on international duty - so Strachan is searching for a centre-half to partner midfielder Roy Keane in the back four.

'Stan is the same as everybody else,' said the Hoops boss.

'He trains with us all the time. We don't put him in a freezer somewhere, because people say he's frozen out.

'That is not the case. He has done well for this club over the last few years, and we will train together.

'Stan is looking all right but has not had too many games, because he has never been fit for five or six months.'