NON-LEAGUE Harrogate Town have rejected the chance to play Celtic in a friendly.
Neil Lennon’s side are down south training at Loughborough University as they gear up for their ten-in-a-row title push which will begin with a home clash against Hamilton on August 2.
The Hoops had hoped to arrange a behind-closed doors fixture with Harrogate to build up the squad’s match sharpness.
But the League Two hopefuls don’t want to risk injury as they prepare for their crucial National League play-off against either Boreham Wood or FC Halifax Town later this month.
Boss Simon Weaver explained: “I received a great phone call from Danny Wilson just the other day, asking if we wanted to play Celtic at Loughborough, all expenses paid.
“Under any other circumstances we’d love to have played them. What an opportunity, and what a blow to have to say no.
“But it’s too big a risk for us with the size of our squad and because we only have four defenders available for the play-offs.
“We’re walking on eggshells a little bit in that respect. We’ve got to be very careful at the moment.
“I’m sure Celtic will find another of the play-off sides with a bigger squad who will be able to give them a game, but hopefully that link is forged now.”
Meanwhile Lennon admits his Celtic players are itching to end their four-month football exile ahead of next week’s trip to France.
They are due to face Lyon, Nice and PSG in friendlies and Lennon can’t wait to let his players loose.
He said: “We are trying to ramp up the training now as we are coming into games pretty soon.
“We haven’t played a competitive game for over four months so it’s important we get some match rhythm.
“We have to be really focused. The pre-season has been good so far and now they are itching to get a game.
“Hopefully after three or four games they will find their legs. It’s been a long break but it’s exciting to be back.
“We want a competitive edge in training to take into the games next week.
“The other side is getting the players used to playing behind closed doors.
“We have to adapt to that environment as it will be totally different to what we’ve been used to.
“The more we can do that, the better they will adapt to it. It has to be part of our preparations.
“We have to be in the right mindset and the right physical condition to get used to the situations thrown at us going forward.
“Every game is going to be critical from our point of view, because of what we could achieve as a group and club.”