ANDREAS Thom, of Bayer Leverkusen, yesterday became the player who did

not get away from Celtic. Manager Tommy Burns finally got his man when

the 29-year-old German international striker walked into Parkhead and

signed a three-year contract which, according to the club's chief

executive, Fergus McCann, will cost #4m over that period.

Burns is convinced that his signing activity is not yet over, saying

that he could have two more new men in his squad before the start of the


Around 1000 Celtic fans waited in the rain outside the ground as the

deal -- the transfer fee was #2.2m -- was completed, and Thom, capped 51

times by the old East Germany and 11 times by the unified German team,

revealed that a last-gasp bid by another top club failed to tempt him.

Through his agent, who acted as interpreter, the player said: ''One of

the biggest clubs in Germany (believed to be Werder Bremen) made me an

offer only yesterday, but my mind was made up. My wife and I are

delighted to be coming to Scotland and to a club of such stature as


''It is always a big challenge for a player to move to another

country, and it is a challenge I want. Of course, I want to continue to

play for the German national side, but that will happen only if I play

well for Celtic.

''In 1986 I played against Aberdeen and that's when I learned about

the fantastic atmosphere in Scotland. I think the Celtic fans are the

best in the country and I will be putting my all into making this a

successful season for both them and the club. I'm really looking forward

to playing in front of those great fans for the first time.''

That will almost certainly happen next Saturday, when Celtic return to

the new Parkhead to play against Newcastle United. Thom will not be on

duty when the team travels to Birmingham today, or south again next

Tuesday, when they face Everton at Goodison Park.

Said manager Burns: ''Andreas and his wife have had a hectic time over

the last four or five days. I think it is important that they get back

to Germany to say goodbye to their friends and attend to other business.

I expect him back at Celtic Park next week and I think it's important he

makes his debut for Celtic in front of our own fans, probably against


''Andreas is a very mature, very quick front player, who can also

operate in the midfield. He is also a good family man, who has his

priorities right.

''But he has not come here as some kind of saviour. We hope to bring

in another couple of new men quickly to help him, and, of course, we

already have other quality players at the club.

''It's the biggest signing the club has ever made, and when you sign

someone of his standing in the game, it should help others to want to

come here. I am very happy for all those people standing out there in

the rain and for the other Celtic fans who have been disappointed.''

Celtic finally got the quick, front player they wanted after having

been turned down by other international stars, including Belgian Marc

Degryse and Frenchman David Ginola. They also lost Dundee United

defender Gordan Petric to Rangers, with United chairman Jim McLean

accusing someone from inside Celtic Park of leaking confidential

information about the negotiation.

All McCann would say about that yesterday was: ''Mr McLean has not

given me the courtesy of a reply as to why he made those accusations. I

think it is improper and that he should be held accountable for it. You

can draw your own conclusions. But we don't do business that way.''

McCann also revealed that Celtic Park will have a capacity of 31,000

for the Newcastle match. He said: ''We are delighted with the progress

of the work achieved by Miller Construction, so much so that we have

invited the 300 workers on the project to attend the game as guests of

the club in recognition of their good work. An additional 3340 seats

will be opened before the first competetive match, which may be on

August 30.''

Meantime, manager Burns said that both Phil O'Donnell and Tom Boyd,

who went on the tour of Germany with the club but did not play because

they were recovering from injuries, would get a run at some stage of

this afternoon's match against Birmingham City.

John Collins has been pinpointed by Birmingham manager Barry Fry as

the Celtic danger man. Fry said: ''Everyone down here knows about the

player. He's very much talked about and admired. The lad is a very

gifted and talented player.

''Then again, I suppose anyone who's good enough to play for a team

like Celtic must have some quality.''

My wife and I are delighted to be coming to Scotland and to a club of

such stature as Celtic.