Neil Lennon today throw a hand grenade into the debate over racist chanting by telling the media that he would “encourage” our players to walk off the pitch if it was being levelled at them.
The question was on racist chants, but there’s no doubt that Lennon believes sectarianism falls into that category, as he has said so on various occasions.
On top of that, the phrase “anti-Irish racism” entered the context of Scottish football when Martin O’Neill sat a Champions League press conference after Lennon himself had been subjected to 90 minutes of bile at Ibrox back in 2004.
Lennon himself slammed Scotland’s attitude towards the issue as recently as November 2018.
Unfortunately, our manager is a recognised authority on this subject. He knows it inside out because he’s had to live with it. He will not allow any of our players to endure the sort of thing that has blighted the whole of his career. He will fight for every one of them.
The SPFL’s statement of the other night was typically vacuous and inane, but at least they’ve made a statement on. The governing body for the game here has thus far said not a damned thing. Nothing whatsoever, on the issue all of European football is talking about.
I am going to do a piece later on about the media’s continued attitude towards sectarianism; it will be pretty scathing of one article in particular. But you know what? Even they haven’t denied that this issue is current, that it’s overdue to be tackled, that it requires action.
They just aren’t prepared to back any particular course of it.
Lennon knew exactly what he was saying today when he said, “It’s embarrassing for the individual countries and the individual associations and the people who run those associations as well.”
He wasn’t simply talking about Bulgaria or any of the faraway places UEFA has shone a spotlight on, he was talking about right here at home.
It’s not that long ago that one of our clubs – the one the media has spent the last fortnight slobbering all over like Gascoigne in a train carriage – was sanctioned by UEFA for just this kind of thing. Our governing body was mute on that, as with much else.
Our governing body does not want to touch this issue, as their silence aptly demonstrates.
But Lennon has put the cat amongst the pigeons today and no mistake. A lot of people in our sport would like to see this matter tackled properly and he, for obvious reasons, is one of them. His comments today offer our players the protection the SFA won’t.
What a man he is.
This is why Lennon, the man, is a hero of mine even if I sometimes find myself disagreeing with Lennon the manager.
He has more guts than the whole of the SFA Executive put together.
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