Tam McManus has accused Celtic's head of football operations Nick Hammond of 'messing about' former Hoops target Steven Fletcher despite the striker DESPERATE to join the club.

The former Hibs ace made the bold claims on PLZ Soccer, suggesting that Hammond should be criticised for wasting cash spent on the likes of Vasilis Barkas, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala.

Manager Neil Lennon wanted Fletcher to join and provide a fresh and different striking option than they already had in Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard but, when a deal could not be struck, the Scotland cap joined Stoke City in the English Championship.

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McManus revealed his old Hibs teammate Fletcher desperately wanted to sign for his boyhood heroes and would have penned a deal in a heartbeat. But Hammond dropped the ball.

“Nick Hammond, I think he’s got to come under close scrutiny," McManus said. "I know for a fact that the players at Celtic and Neil Lennon wanted to bring Steven Fletcher in. I know that, I know for a fact that they wanted to bring him in. Nick Hammond messed him and his agent about so much, and they eventually walked away. Steven Fletcher was desperate to join Celtic.

"In the grand scheme of things that doesn't affect a lot, Rangers would still have won the league, Celtic would've been miles behind. That's the kind of breakdown between Neil Lennon, Nick Hammond and the board. Neil Lennon wanted Steven Fletcher in and he never got him.

"To bring Barkas in, he's been hopeless. Klimala is not good enough, £3million. Ajeti, another £5million on him, they've wasted so much money on recruitment and that's been the massive difference I think between Rangers and Celtic this season. The guys Rangers have brought in have been brought in and gone straight in to do a job in the first-team. The guys Celtic have brought in have not been good enough. That's contributed to the 18 point lead."