I'm not the man portrayed by some, says Celtic boss Lennon

IT may have been Ally McCoist who said he did not do walking away, but it is a mantra Neil Lennon now seems happy to adopt.

Loading Comments
Share
Print
Neil Lennon does not believe there will be any fallout today from last week's flashpoint at Aberdeen's League Cup tie
Neil Lennon does not believe there will be any fallout today from last week's flashpoint at Aberdeen's League Cup tie

Another controversial chapter in Lennon's Celtic career was penned last weekend at Tynecastle - through no fault of his own - when the Celtic manager was singled out for abuse, allegedly from a section of the Aberdeen support in the shape of a hurled beverage and a launched coin.

Given the Celtic manager was the subject of a mindless act of thuggery by a spectator on one of his previous jaunts to Tynecastle when on dugout duty with the Hoops, Lennon could have been forgiven for saying enough was enough when he was the target of more madness as a neutral to take in the Aberdeen-St Johnstone cup tie.

Intelligent man that he is, the Celtic manager has spent the last week indulging in a prolonged bout of introspection and he candidly admitted that the findings of the Lennon Inquiry have not been particularly palatable.

The plain truth, even to the most blinkered supporters of the Scottish game, is that there is a seedy underbelly that continues to blight our national sport.

But Lennon has also bridled at his own portrayal in the media as a snarling "street fighter" and believes this has created an image of himself that has made him an unjust target.

It is a case the Celtic manager was happy to make in eloquent fashion while sending out a clear message that this manager is not for turning.

Lennon said: "I have been feeling aggrieved, especially at the way I've been portrayed by some people and the way I think I'm treated.

"I think there's a total imbalance to the way I'm treated and the way other people, personalities or celebrities in the game, are treated.

"I'm confrontational, controversial, a street fighter, looks after himself, blah blah blah. Rubbish. Absolute rubbish.

"I'm sitting there at the game last week, a coin whizzes past, could've hit me in the eye. Am I big enough to take that? Yes. But should I take it? No.

"Because it's me, then a lot of people tend to wash it off and say: 'He can handle it'. I can handle it, but I shouldn't have to.

"But no, it's not going to put me off (going to games)."

However, the correlation between the opprobrium he has been the subject of and his arrival at Celtic after a distinguished 14-year playing career with Leicester City and Northern Ireland is clear.

Lennon said: "Certainly, my troubles in Northern Ireland didn't start until after I signed for Celtic.

"And certainly I had no things happen to me off the field in 14 years playing in England. So, again, that's the association with being at Celtic. There's no question, you can't bury your head in the sand.

"Over the years there's been a huge sectarian element to what went on. I'm not saying last week was sectarian. It wasn't. I don't recall any sectarian abuse being aimed at me. The only thing that was aimed at me was a coin and drinks."

While he was undoubtedly a combative presence at the heart of the Hoops' midfield, Lennon was never a hatchet man.

Yet the Celtic manager believes that he has been painted as such and has reaped the repercussions of that.

Lennon said: "This is the other thing, I look at some of the comments made by some like, 'He was a thug on the pitch'.

"But I wasn't a thug. Look at my disciplinary record, look at my games, I never elbowed anyone, never two-footed anyone, never did anything, never cheated in a game. So this thug persona is nonsense. It makes me angry. I don't know where it's come from. But people believe what they want to believe and they don't look at the facts."

The Hoops gaffer has made a concerted effort to avoid confrontation with officials in order to fly under the radar of controversy over the last year.

Lennon revealed: "I'm not criticising referees this year, although I've had plenty to criticise them for in terms of decisions. I don't have confrontations with the fourth official, whereas I see plenty of other managers non-stop at fourth officials.

"Yet, there's no pictures of them squaring up to officials, no pictures of them abusing officials, no real talk of it. I understand why it goes on because managers are under pressure, we are all on the same boat.

"But whenever I do it, it's a flashpoint, it's talked about for days on end.

"Maybe it's because I'm the manager of Celtic.

Yet, however sickened he may be by his continued perceived vilification, Lennon says his love for the beautiful game will mean he will always stand up for himself and the club he loves.

He said: "I deal with it because I love the job. But that's through football, it's not through things off the field. What I'm trying to get my head around is why it happened last week.

"I'm at a neutral game. I've been to loads, even the week before I was at Motherwell- Aberdeen. I'm trying to figure out why it's happened again, at a neutral game, a semi-final. And it's this portrayal of who people think I am.

"Plenty of people begrudge you the success or the way you are. People try and portray me as arrogant. But I don't think I'm arrogant at all.

"They say I'm confrontational when I'm standing up for myself. Yes, I can be. But you would expect somebody in my position to do that.

"I will continue to stand up for myself just like every other manager in Celtic's football history."

When it comes to today's reunion with the Aberdeen support at the Scottish Cup fifth-round tie, Lennon is confident there will be no simmering resentment.

He said: "I wouldn't have thought so. There might be a few words exchanged, but I think people are coming to the game because, on paper, it's a very good match to watch.

"It's a cup tie, it's separate from the league and there's always that added ingredient, that spice to it, so it should be a cracking atmosphere."

Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

151361

Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email news@eveningtimes.co.uk
Games news:

Putting the world to rights

Gail's Gab

Yorkhill does great work and Black Friday

Times Out

Entertainment

Lifestyle

TV Advert
Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat’s Eyes on Glasgow

Cat Cubie’s job is to find and share with you the fabulous things the city has to offer, from gigs to gastro.

Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You Couldn't Make This Up

Glass of wine saves my day but not my diet

Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Columnist Michelle McManus is Sussed in the City, and loves to chat about anything and everything.