CELTIC boss Neil Lennon has hit back at the critics of Craig Levein and insisted the treatment of the sacked Hearts gaffer has been shameful.
The former Scotland international manager was axed from his post as team coach and director of football on Thursday.
Lennon clashed with Levein in derby days when he was in charge at Hibs, but is adamant his former adversary did not deserve the abuse he received in the last few weeks in the job as the team struggled at the wrong end of the Premiership table.
The Irishman, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth the way some people have behaved towards him considering what he’s given to the club.
“I think he deserves a certain amount of respect.
“The job means everything to us – we’re professionals. We live our lives 24 / 7. We give our all and sometimes it doesn’t happen.
“The vitriol at the minute in the game, certainly up here, is appalling I think – the way managers and players are being criticised and abused.
“It gets very personal. These people don’t know Craig, they don’t know what he’s done, they have short memories.
“The graffiti on Foundation Plaza was appalling. I know from my own experience that they like a bit of graffiti around the place.
“It’s a sign of the times. I think it’s really tacky. I think some of the punditry aimed at Craig has been personal and I think that’s unprofessional, as well.”
Lennon added: “’m really disappointed for him as the club meant so much to him and the job meant so much to him.
“I don’t know if there was an inevitability about it based on results, but there were mitigating circumstances.
“He’s had a lot of important players injured since this time last year when they were flying.
“You think of the long-term injuries they’ve had to Steven Naismith and John Souttar and now Craig Halkett and Conor Washington.
“There’s no question that those four would make Hearts a better team.”
Lennon’s focus is now on the holders’ Betfred League Cup semi-final with Hibs at Hampden this evening.
In the absence of the axed Levein, his former assistant Austin MacPhee will take the team in their Betfred last-four confrontation against Rangers at the national stadium tomorrow afternoon.