Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon has hit out at the Scottish press over their lack of coverage of ‘sectarian’ abuse aimed at the Northern Irishman and claimed that ‘they didn’t want to admit it’ rather saying he ‘brought in on’ himself.
In an interview with Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail, the recently appointed Bolton manager, opened up about his time at Celtic Park.
From being assaulted on the street to being attacked on the touchline to parcel bombs and bullets sent in the post, Lennon was seen as a hate figure and a target for elements within the Scottish game. People went to jail for their hate, but there was a long-held belief by some – including in the Scottish mainstream media – that the controversial Northern Irishman didn’t help himself with his comments, attitude and passion – on and off the pitch.
Lennon, believes that the majority of the trouble he faced was fueled by the press, he said: “At times I didn’t do myself any favours. I am not saying I was an angel in all of this as I wasn’t. But did I get a fair crack of the whip at times? No. Some of what was said about the difficulties I had was irresponsible. I found it personal.
“They [the media]wouldn’t come out and say my treatment was sectarian. They said I brought it on myself. They hid behind that because they didn’t want to admit it. But it was sectarian in the stadiums. That’s what it was.
“People say: ‘He brings it on himself…he is an aggressive manager’. But so are a number of other managers. So are some players. I was high-profile, I came for a lot of money as a player.
“For me, my job was being part of Martin O’Neill’s team and to break the Rangers monopoly. We did that. When I came in again as manager, Walter Smith had won three in a row and I had to do it again. Eventually we did that. Some people like it and some people didn’t.
“I think it was unique. Nobody else had to go through situations and circumstances like I have been through. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through it. You would hope that all the nonsense that happened to me would serve as a watershed. The anticipation and the rivalry in Glasgow will probably never tire and I enjoyed being part of it for a long time. There is part of me that misses it but a bigger part of me that doesn’t either.”
He added: “I don’t want to paint a bad picture because it’s fantastic up there from a football point of view. But it does wear you down in the end. Maybe it was the chaos and the madness catching up with me but in the end, I just felt desperately tired.”
“When I was younger I was able to have the energy and courage to get through it. When I was getting bullets through the post and all that. I had good people of intelligence in the background who were looking after me. But in the end I was exhausted emotionally.
“You go through a mountain of emotions and it’s not normal for a football manager or football person. It all caught up with me, subconsciously. I needed a change of scenery. Did it change me as a person? Not really, no. Did it have an effect on me? I think at times it did.
“Now I’m out of it, do I miss the intensity? Sometimes, yes. We live off that. But I am loving what I am doing now. I can concentrate on the management here and the football rather than the other stuff. I also need to prove I can manage in England.”
On the pressures of living in the Glasgow goldfish bowl and being criticised himself for going out in the town, Lennon continued: “I would encourage the players to go out at Celtic now and again. I am not saying they should go out and get bevvied every week, far from it. There is a time and place for it. But they should be able to let their hair down.
“The problem is that we make it a big issue. Jack Wilshere has a fag. So what? It’s not gonna end his career. But someone takes a photo and then he has to apologise. I played with players who smoked all the time, especially the French players. They loved a cigarette after the game or even before.”
Anyone else in Lennon’s boots may have walked away after the threats and the attacks, but Lennon asked: Why? Why would I do that? What was I supposed to do? Give my job up?
“Listen, It’s important to make the point it wasn’t always crazy and stressful in Scotland. There were times when I could just get on with my job and it was very enjoyable. I loved it, a privilege. There were just sporadic incidents that caused a bit of stress. In the main it was brilliant and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.”