EX-BOLTON boss Neil Lennon is plotting a bargain raid on Wanderers.

His return to Celtic on a permanent basis confirmed, the Northern Irishman is looking to beat Glasgow rivals Rangers to the signing of Luca Connell.

A queue of clubs are said to be interested in the 18-year-old, who was recently included in the Republic of Ireland senior squad for the first time.

Connell does not have a professional contract at Wanderers and could be signed for compensation should the likes of Sheffield United, Leeds United, Wolves or Norwich City win the race for his signature.

It is estimated that Bolton would get around £300,000 at tribunal for the Liverpool-born midfielder, who has been with the club since the age of nine.

Wanderers secured a best possible price by triggering a 12-month extension to his scholarship contract last month – but the money they stand to make could be drastically reduced if he chooses to play his football north of the border with either Celtic or Rangers.

Connell returned early from a training camp in Portugal because of injury but has assured international boss Mick McCarthy that he will pledge his future to Ireland.

After the teenager had impressed in Portugal, McCarthy confirmed the plan had been to use him briefly against either Gibraltar or Denmark to ensure his colours were pinned to the mast.

The Ireland boss said: “I asked him: ‘If I put you on for three minutes, in one of the games, somewhere down the line, would you be peeved with me or do you want to play for Ireland?’ And he said: ‘I want to play for Ireland, that’s what I want to do.’

“It’s a kind of duty of care as well,” he continued. “He has just turned 18 and it would be easy for me to put him on the bench at the moment, he is full of hype and all that but if he gets two minutes then that’s him done. But he actually told me that’s what he wants to do.”