McNamara a future leader of the Parkhead band.

SCOTLAND midfield player Billy McKinlay is set to join Celtic in a

#1.8m deal which was finalised yesterday between his club, Dundee

United, and the Parkhead side.

Celtic manager Tommy Burns promised he was ready to spend more money

after completing the signing of Jacky McNamara from Dunfermline on

Wednesday afternoon.

By the time the McNamara deal was completed, Burns had made his moves

to hijack McKinlay from under the noses of English Premiership champions

Blackburn Rovers. The Lancashire side, backed by owner Jack Walker's

millions, had offered just more than #1.5m early in the week.

They are believed to have increased that in their efforts to capture

McKinlay, but Burns and Celtic topped their offer, and yesterday

Tannadice chairman Jim McLean informed them that they had permission to

talk to the player.

I understand that McKinlay was told of that decision and is now

awaiting the signing offer from the Glasgow side he supported as a

schoolboy. Last night he was engaged in talks at Parkhead with Burns and

his advisers.

The player has wanted to leave Tannadice since last season and is

currently pursuing an action against them in the Court of Session over

the legality of the long-term contract he claims he was forced to sign

when he was a teenager.

That deal is due to end in the summer after running its

eight-year-long course -- and, now, as he faces the last few months of

his Tannadice ''sentence,'' the player will get the move he has long


Burns moved swiftly to add the burgeoning talents of McKinlay to his

already powerful midfield area. Being able to beat off the bid from

Blackburn must demonstrate to Celtic fans the manager's determination to

add quality to the squad.

Inevitably, of course, this will add to the rumours surrounding the

future of John Collins. As far as I can see, Collins is sure to go and

the money generated by that sale -- and Middlesbrough remain favourites

to sign the player -- will be used to bring in other players.

Jacky McNamara, the Scotland under-21 internationalist, has cost the

club #600,000, and as Burns stressed yesterday: ''He is a player for the

future. I watched him last season and felt he needed maybe another year

with Dunfermline. Now he is ready to step up and that's why we have

signed him.''

McNamara's move has already been pushed into the background by the

decisive way Burns has set up the McKinlay move. A year ago no-one would

have believed that Celtic would be able to top Blackburn in any transfer

deal. But that is what Burns has done over the last hectic 48 hours.

In the close season Celtic failed to sign Gordan Petric from Tannadice

after behind-the-scenes delays which angered Burns. This time everything

is in place and the Parkhead money men must deliver in the wake of their

manager's admirable wheeling and dealing.

There is little doubt that United would have wanted to keep McKinlay,

but with a court case pending and the player obviously unhappy, a

transfer was the only way out of the impasse.

In the meantime, Celtic captain Paul McStay, who missed the midweek

victory over Falkirk, has been withdrawn from the Scotland squad which

travels to Stockholm next week to play Sweden in a friendly


McKinlay is in that squad and could be in line to win his first

international cap as a Celtic player.