Whatever any of us think of Neil Lennon the manager, one thing is absolutely beyond dispute; Neil Lennon will never allow Celtic to be treated less well than anyone else. Something else is equally sure; he knows the Scottish football landscape and every trick in it.
He knows, for example, the tricks that the hacks play. He knows what the governing bodies are capable of. He clearly recognises the political and “cultural” environment which surrounds us in some places. And unlike some people, Lennon is not afraid to confront it all.
This is what Neil Lennon’s sterling reputation outside of football is based on; this determination he has to be what he is and to celebrate that fact without being bothered who doesn’t like it. Neil Lennon probably has more enemies – the real kind – than anyone else in Scotland.
The kind of people who would send bullets in the post, who’d attack you in the street, who would assault you even whilst you were stood there doing your job.
Neil Lennon gets on with it. Not only that, but he continues to wear his heart on his sleeve.
He continues to stand up for himself, and for Celtic.
Yesterday he sat in front of the media and amidst talk about the football tonight he swung back hard against those who he feels are giving him a raw deal. At a time like this I feel a great sense of kinship with Lennon but a sense of anger too at how the board of directors stays mute whilst he goes in front of the cameras and the scribbling toe-rags of our media and funnels whatever anger there is behind the scenes through himself.
It would sit better with me if those behind him did their own jobs right and took these matters as seriously as Neil claims they do. Instead of having the manager sit in front of the hacks and tell them that the club is angry about some of the things that are going on it would be better for all concerned if the club itself would respond more aggressively.
Instead, they send Neil Lennon out alone, knowing full well that some of those who are most active in working against him are sitting in that room with him. Why are they allowed to be there? Wouldn’t our club better express its anger by banning them?
Celtic likes to claim that allowing criticism is evidence that we do things right; it’s a badge of honour and an assumption of the high ground. It’s also stupid, and leaves us vulnerable to constant attacks from these people, and especially those from the two tabloids who seem to spend their time doing nothing else.
He had special words for one of them yesterday.
Lennon’s first line of attack was against the Scottish Government for their wholly inconsistent decision to praise the Ibrox club for their response to a lockdown breach by some of their players. Lennon was right to have a go at them. They gave the Ibrox club a pat on the head after they had hammered us, even to the extent of calling off games.
I was astonished the other day by the number of people who sought to offer the Scottish Government some kind of alibi for that after I posted a piece about the way they’d treated us. “But the situations were different,” was one of the arguments.
To me, the only thing different was the way in which we were treated, and the manager agrees.
He said that the club is also angry over it.
Again, this is an example of some people at Celtic nursing their wrath in private and sending the manager out to express it in public. A statement from the boardroom, a demand for an explanation, would have been far more effective.
“I found it strange to say the least,” he said. “We as a club did and I’m sure our supporters did as well. I’m not happy about it. We were thrown under the bus. We were subjected to privileged footballers, yellow card and blah, blah, blah. We have been treated in one way and other clubs have been treated another by the government and that’s unacceptable from our point of view.”
Lennon’s point was brilliantly made though. His anger was obvious.
The allegation that we had been “thrown under a bus” is one that is going to stick like glue, because they will have a hell of a job denying the central truth at the core of it.
Our club should have said that, in a statement, and not just left it to the manager.
But Lennon is a good solider, to say the least, and he will always fight for us.
He did it again on the subject of Jeremie Frimpong, and got right to the heart of that particular matter in a similar way to what I wrote in my own article of the other day.
Phil also pointed this out, in an article which suggested that the press knows more than they are saying about that.
I’ll have more on that subject later on.
Lennon knows that smells fishy.
The timing of the story was suspect, the story itself was a nonsense.
The manager pointed out that the club knew the details weeks ago; as I said yesterday, the story is almost a month old.
So why release it now?
And although he hasn’t said so, Lennon has the same suspicion as the rest of us, which he heavily hinted at.
It was great to hear him express his contempt for the story, and making it clear that he finds it all suspicious. I just wish the rag responsible for it had been told to march their “journalists” back out of the room and told they weren’t welcome.
“It’s a non-story. Jerry didn’t break any rules,” he said, before raising the issue that’s been uppermost in my mind since I heard about it. “I have to question the timing of the story because we were aware of it a few weeks ago.”
In the same press conference as he was very vocal about the government’s handling of the Ibrox situation it seems clear that he’s connected the two and that people inside Celtic Park have as well. The suspicion remains that there’s a bigger story here.
Lennon was brilliant yesterday, absolutely brilliant. He stood up for the club like a true warrior. The man is a class act at times like these. I only wish the club stood more solidly behind him, and put some additional weight behind his words.