Neil Lennon has done, today, what many of us have been calling on this club to do for ages; he’s banned a media outlet.
The outlet is Sky Sports. He’s told them they won’t get any more access to Celtic players until Andy Walker issues an apology to him and to the club for his comments a few weeks ago.
Well, few Celtic fans will cry the blues over this … so why am I sitting here and not feeling pleased about it?
Because this one is woefully misplaced.
Andy Walker is an idiot. I agree with Lennon that Walker has given Celtic nothing.
This is not a club icon or a club legend, this is a guy who just so happened to play for us twice and has spent every second he could since getting his media gig putting in the boot.
But I listened to Walker on the day in question, and I thought he spoke eloquently, passionately and from the heart.
I thought he nailed it, in short.
When you consider some of what has been said and done by the media over the last couple of years, for Lennon to pick this particular incident and draw a line in the sand over it is frankly mental … not least because there is absolutely no way that we can, or will, win this particular show-down.
Sky has a contract with the SPFL.
We are contractually obliged to provide them with interviews.
This has been ligitated before when the Ibrox club tried to ban Sky Sports a couple of years ago.
Not only that, but Walker isn’t going to apologise and Sky aren’t going to make him. They will dig in their heels, Walker will dig in his and in the end we’ll have to back down and that will give our enemies yet another chance to gloat at our expense.
I have no love for Andy Walker at all, but I thought Lennon’s entire presser today was deranged.
He went in there looking for a fight, and it was nothing more than an attempted deflection from his own abysmal job performance. Lennon is right to say that there is a clamour for his head, but the people making all the noise weren’t at that press conference.
They are the people who buy season tickets and thus pay his wages.
I attack the media relentlessly on this blog, when they deserve it.
But I have never attacked the news media for covering the news.
That’s all they did here.
Andy Walker spoke his mind and in doing so he said nothing tens of thousands of ordinary Celtic fans were not saying. What exactly did he do that day deserving of this completely over-the-top response?
There are newspapers that lie about our club.
There are newspapers which twist Lennon’s own statements.
There are newspapers that lie about our supporters.
Some of them have openly, and nakedly, attacked our players.
One national tabloid went raking through the bins of one of our young footballers last year, and wrote a despicable article about him.
Lennon himself came under attack by The Evening Times just the other day, in a most disgraceful Tweet which they had to take down.
The BBC routinely distorts things and whips up controversy where there is none.
The last time Celtic banned a journalist from Celtic Park it was Keith Jackson.
His crime was writing something Peter Lawwell didn’t like.
Another revealed just this weekend that Lawwell has called him up before to take issue with critical pieces.
Now Sky Sports are banned because Neil Lennon feels personally slighted by a former player?
It seems to me that the press can attack our players, lie about our fans, smear our institution and distort facts and logic as much as they like about us, all without response. Yet attack Lawwell and they feel the heat. Are we now to include Lennon on the list of Untouchables? Does he now consider himself off-limits?
He accuses the media of hypocrisy; I’ll tell you what hypocrisy is.
Banning a guy whose crime was to ask where the soul of our club has gone whilst allowing sworn enemies of the club to attend every press conference.
Hypocrisy is giving their titles exclusives and tip-offs, and using them to attack the fans.
Hypocrisy is telling Sky they are banned until Walker says sorry and then writing a cheque to Peter Martin and letting him do CelticTV games when, as I wrote last year, he is the guy who invented a story about how the manager told him he was unhappy with Odsonne Edouard and then, when challenged, backtracked and said that Lennon had “given him a look” which he interpreted how he pleased.
Yet he gets the red carpet, not the red card.
Our club will not defend its reputation when it counts.
It will not defend the supporters.
It will not stand up against distortions and outright falsehoods.
But over this, we’re willing to die in the ditch?
We’ve let journalists lie about us and attack us in the most hateful manner, yet Andy Walker getting emotional on camera over what he sees as a fall in our standards is the line in the sand, the step too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back?
What Lennon has done here reeks of deflection, and I can only presume that the club not only allowed that unhinged performance today but sanctioned it.
In doing so we’ve re-opened an argument which Lawwell had closed off, however cack-handed he was at it.
Now the journalists he attacked will fire back.
Walker will certainly tell him to piss off.
Sky will push the SPFL into backing their stance over ours.
In naming other clubs he has damaged relationships and virtually assured that they will respond.
Hamilton is first; they have already followed up on his naming them with a sure step and a dignity our club has not managed to muster throughout this outrageous series of events.
Their statement tonight is simple, classy and all the more effective for it.
“It is not our policy to comment on statements made by other clubs. We are content that we meet the most stringent standards of Covid protocols for all people visiting our stadium.”
Others are not going to be so reasonable, and when they slam us we’ll have richly deserved it.
Lennon went in there looking for a fight today and he’s opened up multiple fronts on which to indulge his own lust for battle.
What a shame he wasn’t quite this vocal on the touchline during our disaster of a campaign.
That was not a press conference today, it was the manager indulging himself, and taking a chance to unload on his own critics, as if he is above criticism and beyond reproach.
And you know what? If I had bosses who didn’t care how badly I screwed up and were willing to back me to the hilt no matter how lousy my job performance was, I might feel the same way.
This Lennon is the monster our board has created, and today he blasted away at everyone within range.
If those at the club were happy with that, the shambles in private is even greater than the mess we’re making in public. That is not a good thought to get us all through the rest of the week.