Davie Hay: Lennon has to be Celtic soothsayer

WHAT you say, or what you do.

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Neil Lennon has been forced into a tricky situation due to the conduct of his transfer-window signing Leigh Griffths
Neil Lennon has been forced into a tricky situation due to the conduct of his transfer-window signing Leigh Griffths

Which is the more important? It's a question Neil Lennon is facing as he attempts to deal with the situation which has blown up around Leigh Griffiths.

His striker now faces three charges from the SFA and a Police Scotland investigation into his behaviour in an Edinburgh pub before the recent Hearts v Hibs game.

Since I wrote a week ago that I believed the incident was more stupid than serious and not worthy of SFA intervention, further video footage has emerged which, without prejudging, appears to have raised the stakes.

Bringing a charge of "singing in public a song of an offensive, racist and/or discriminatory nature" shows the SFA are not trying to downplay the severity of what is alleged.

All of which puts Neil in a very difficult position because he is on record as saying that he has zero tolerance towards any form of racism and that any sign of it would result in instant dismissal for the perpetrator.

That statement was made on October 2012, and was his reaction not to anything which had happened at Celtic, but the result of events in England.

Such is the digital age we now live in that it was only a matter of hours before that statement was dug out and replayed time after time.

I feel for Neil as I know what it is like to make an honest comment then find further down the line, it is being used to put pressure on you.

When I took over as manager of Celtic in 1983, while still only 35, I said in an interview that, if we didn't win a trophy that season, I would step down. It felt like the right thing to say as I was trying to explain how determined I was to be a success as manager of this great club, and that I understood how important it was to bring silverware to Celtic Park.

However, at the end of that first campaign, we had finished second to Aberdeen in the championship and were beaten finalists in both cups, losing by a single goal each time, to the Dons in the League Cup and Rangers in the Scottish.

Straight away, my statement about quitting if we didn't win anything was thrown back in my face.

How did I get out this very sticky situation? Our kids won the BP Youth Cup - and I insisted that counted.The following season, we won the Scottish Cup and, a year later, the championship on the final day of the campaign at Love Street.

I was then able to say I had joined the list of managers who had brought the title to the club and delivered on my initial declaration of intent.

But, believe me, it was a tough lesson learned.

I had unwittingly painted myself into a corner with my statement because I could not have possibly known what lay ahead.

But, despite what I considered were mitigating circumstances, what I had said was being used against me as some people considered they had me on the hook.

That's why I can empathise with how Neil must be feeling as pressure is being exerted on him to act on his declaration that any sign of racism would mean a sacking.

Again, I reiterate Leigh has not had his chance to defend himself against these charges, so we must be careful to guard against any rush to judgement.

But Neil has already spoken to Leigh after the initial video footage was made public, and the player has been heavily fined by the club.

That was fair because, while investigations are continuing into precisely what he did in the pub with the Hibs fans, he is guilty of having put himself in a situation which he should have avoided.

I believe he must now be told that he has to move away from where he is living in Edinburgh and, more importantly, detach himself from the environment which appears to be putting him into situations where he is getting into trouble.

I am not saying he has to cut himself off from all of his pals. No one has the right to tell anyone they must do that.

But he does need to put a bit of distance between himself and the risk of further incidents which could reflect badly on him - and on Celtic.

Leigh has to recognise that himself. He has joined a club in which every player and key member of staff is projected into the public spotlight, and he must act accordingly at all times.

There is no way any player can hide behind the defence of saying they were part of a group, so why should they be singled out?

Sure, as far as we know, the police investigation is not looking into the alleged behaviour of anyone else in the pub that day.

But what Leigh has to accept is that no-one else there was a professional footballer.

And with the job - and salary - comes a responsibility.

When Neil made his statement about zero tolerance, he said he didn't need to speak to his players about that.

Given how the personnel is constantly changing, perhaps a regular reminder might be in order.


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