FOOTBALL: QUITTING PARADISE WAS SIMPLE FOR SIMON; 'As Far as I'm Concerned Going to Preston Was a Step Up'

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Byline: Will PRICE

SIMON LYNCH has delivered a shock snub to Celtic after leaving Parkhead in a pounds 130,000 move to Preston aimed at saving under-fire Craig Brown's job.

For Scottish Under-21 ace Lynch says his transfer to the English First Division club is a step UP.

And he vows he won't miss Celtic but will return to Scotland - as an international regular.

The 20-year-old Montreal-born striker, who made his Preston debut as a substitute in last week's 3-0 defeat at Ipswich, refuses to publicly criticise Bhoys' chief Martin O'Neill. Said Lynch: "I would have to say that both Craig Brown and Martin O'Neill are very good man-managers.

"They have different styles, but I think both of them in their own way get the best out of players."

Reading between the lines, there is no doubt that Lynch - whose father Andy was a Celtic stalwart in the mid-1970s - believes O'Neill was wrong to freeze him out.

"It wasn't a wrench at all to leave Celtic. It had been on the cards for a long while," added Lynch, who rejected O'Neill's offer of a new contract at Parkhead in favour of a two-and-a-half-year deal with ex-Scotland supremo Brown at Deepdale earlier this month.

"I supported Celtic as a youngster. I was brought up in Glasgow where the choice is clear - you either support Celtic or you support Rangers.

"My father used to play for the Bhoys, so obviously I swayed towards them.

"But I found that there were just too many foreign players ahead of me at the club and I wasn't being given the chance. No matter how well I had done in the reserves it didn't seem to help. As far as I'm concerned, going to Preston was a step up rather than a step down.

"The reason I have moved is to play first-team football. There is nothing that beats the experience of playing in the first team and that is why I have come to Preston."

Yet it doesn't take much for Lynch's mind to drift back fondly to the best memory of his fledgling career.

The forward with an eye for goal, recruited from Celtic Boys' Club in 1999, made only five appearances and three starts for the Hoops.

But he scored on his full Scottish Premier League debut against Dundee United in May, 2000 and weighed in with two goals against Hearts almost two years later. …