Europa League

Yakin has eyes on final

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Wed, 24 Apr 2013 19:11:00

Michael Higdon has revealed that he could be tempted to return to England rather than extend his contract at Motherwell.

The Englishman leads the SPL goalscoring charts with 24 goals this season and is among the nominees for the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award.

But Higdon, who started his career with Crewe, has yet to agree a new deal at Motherwell beyond the summer and would be willing to listen to offers from English clubs.

Asked about his future plans, he said: "I don't know, I just like playing football and that's what I'm doing at the moment. I could go down south and not play, so we'll just see what happens."

Higdon broke Willie Pettigrew's 37-year-old scoring record for Well with a brace against Dundee United last Friday, and he believes the keys to his success this season have been "confidence, playing in a good team and having a manager who believes in me.

"All those ingredients make you want to play football. This has been the best season of my career. My goals-to-games ratio is better than one in two, so you can't complain with that.

"That's what I've been striving for, a season like this. I want another like this next year.

"As the season was progressing I was getting closer to the record then got two on Friday to surpass it and I'm delighted to do it, because it's been there for 30 years or so.

"Hopefully I can get a few more over the remainder of the season and stretch it out a bit more."

His impressive form has resulted in speculation that a bidding war could take place for his signature in the summer.

But Wanyama has handed Celtic a boost by stating he wants to remain in the east end of Glasgow.

The midfielder said: "I'm happy here and I love it here at Celtic so I'll be here next season.

"I still have a contract with Celtic and I'm happy at the club so I think I'll still be here.

"We want to do better than this season so if we can get the treble next season, it will be a very good achievement for me.

"That's my dream for next season. Also, playing in the Champions League again."

Boss Neil Lennon slapped a ?25million price tag on the player's head in October and Wanyama smiled: "What the manager says is his opinion so if he thinks I'm worth that, it's fine with me."

Wanyama was speaking after being nominated for PFA Scotland's young player of the year award, along with Dundee United duo Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven and Leigh Griffiths of Hibernian.

He said: "It means a lot to me. I've had a good season.

"I'm very grateful and I want to thank my team-mates for giving me the chance to be here and having a good season.

"For me, as a player, I believe that football is a game of learning. The more you play, the more you learn."

With Griffiths, Michael Higdon, Niall McGinn and Andrew Shinnie short-listed for player of the year, Wanyama is the only Celtic player to make the cut this year.

He added: "I'm very surprised because, looking at my team-mates, they have had a very good season and the team has had a good season.

"There are a lot of players individually who have had a very good season and I'm just gutted that they're not here with me."

The former Switzerland international took charge in October with Basle struggling, but has masterminded a renaissance which sees his side tackling last season's Champions League winners in the Europa League semi-finals, having overcome Tottenham in the quarter-finals.

Now the target is the May 15 Amsterdam final.

Yakin said: "I'm not a dreamer, I'm not dreaming. I'm very realistic. We're talking about reaching the final here.

"When I started we were in the very last spot in our group.

"From there I presented my vision that I had to the team and the vision that I had to maybe reach the final even in Amsterdam.

"The team grew in this competition, showed great performances, at home especially. It sets up a good advantage for the second leg then.

"We need one great game and maybe one okay game to maybe even make it to the final.

"It's a semi-final tomorrow. They can even achieve more."

The Swiss champions have beaten Dnipro, Liverpool's conquerors Zenit St Petersburg and Spurs in the knockout rounds and now have Chelsea in their sights.

Yakin refused to compare Chelsea with their London rivals Spurs, who lost out on penalties, preferring to focus on his own side.

"I don't want to make any comparisons," he said.

"The match against Tottenham is over, now we'll have to face Chelsea.

"I think we gained respect with qualifying and getting so far into the semi-finals.

"We will need a little bit of luck if we want to achieve a good result tomorrow.

"We've proved in this competition, in the round of 32, last 16, that we can show some great performances.

"We have very positive results that we've achieved against English teams so far and we want to continue this run."

Many of those performances have come at St Jakob Park.

The Swiss side have not lost in six matches at home so far in the competition, scoring an average of two goals.

"We want to stay unbeaten at home," Yakin added.

"We've shown through the whole campaign that we are very strong at home."

Basle have attracted admirers for their style of play and Yakin's intention is to continue in a similar vein in the first leg.

"We will try and we will see how the start goes," he said.

"We have still nothing to lose. I just want to see my team play encouraging football.

"We will try to dominate here at home. We showed the same against Dnipro and Zenit also.

"Tottenham was the highlight. Over this time it's improved and we're fully confident."

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