Celtic manager

Kristoffer Ajer’s return to form has helped stop Neil Lennon “getting battered” by fans over the defending at Celtic, according to Alex McLeish.

The former Rangers and Scotland manager, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, believes the 22-year-old is looking “back to his best” after a couple of shaky weeks at the heart of the Hoops’ defence.

The Norway international played a starring role in the Bhoys’ Scottish Cup win while he helped Lennon’s men keep a clean sheet against Ross County in Wednesday’s 2-0 win.

He looked commanding at the back once again as Celtic beat Hamilton Academical 3-0 in their Boxing Day fixture to make it back-to-back-to-back clean sheets.

Ajer has been a mainstay for the Celtic manager, with 25 appearances under his belt, and has even featured as a makeshift full-back on occasion.

McLeish suggested the defender’s indifferent form came as a result of him being distracted but that he is finally looking back to his old self.

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“Lennon has been getting battered over the past two months, maybe longer, due to the fact that defenders have made this mistake, that mistake but things have definitely tightened up,” McLeish told Football Insider.

“You see Ajer back to his best form and getting close to people whereas, for some of the goals, we’ve seen him let people turn in the box, that kind of thing and just lost confidence for a while.

“That’s what happens to football players, at the end of the day, they’re just like yourself and me, they’re people but sometimes you have a spell where you’re not doing anything right and you’re not doing things that you should be doing.

“The awareness, looking around you, you’re not seeing players running off your back because you’re thinking about other things, there’s concentration there but you’re probably concentrating on something else, which has nothing to do with football.”

The victory against Hamilton was Ajer’s 10th start in a row and 24th in total – only Callum McGregor has more minutes for Celtic this season.

The result sees Neil Lennon’s side move four points clear of Hibernian in 3rd place, who were beaten by Rangers in the day’s early kick-off.

In other news, Celtic tipped to accept £12million bid for top star as agent talks touted.