In different words, the response was the same; ‘I don’t hate him, but certainly don’t like him.’
Apparently, one hated the way he played when he came to Easter Road because; ‘He was too arrogant!”
Much like Scott Brown was, I asked?
No, he disagreed.
The St Mirren fan said much the same, but when I reminded him that Lennon had only actually played against the Buddies three times in his career in the league, he then said he’d seen him on the telly.
Neil Lennon, born in Co. Armagh, Ireland, had survived being a Catholic in Lurgan (part of Ireland’s Murder Triangle, along with Portadown and Craigavon), as well as Manchester, Crewe and Leicester without his faith or Nationality, nor indeed his style of play, causing him anymore pain than a boot in the face from the England captain.
Indeed he played at all levels for the North of Ireland, including 40 senior caps, some as captain, without his creed ever presenting a problem.
In fact, ‘the way he played’ was celebrated by the same people who now use it as an excuse to ridicule him.
So it seems that the decisive factor was that he joined Celtic.
That’s it, a man with no prior convictions or headlines (again, aside from Alan Shearers size 10 stud marks in his face) was now fair game for bigotry and abuse after pulling on the Hoops.
After that day, it was fair game to boo him, all of sudden, from no-where, Neil Lennon’s style of play was a problem.
Scotland is a country where Terry Hurlock ruled the roost and Kenny Black ran rampant.
It is a country where Davie ‘Psycho’ Bowman was celebrated in battle and where Lee McCulloch and John Brown’s ‘no nonsense’ approach is lauded.
In Scotland, to this day, there is an appreciation for Heart’s player Ian Black’s ‘style of play’.
Are we to believe that Neil Lennon’s style of play was so offensive that it was fair game to open the floodgates for terrible tide that has come his way?
Neil Lennon definitely cares about this club – Celtic might not have been his number one club when he was growing up, but it’s certainly his only club now!
On the pitch, Lennon was never scared – he was not scared of players, he was not scared of managers, nor refs – he wasn’t then and he isn’t now.
I pray to god Lennon stays on as Celtic manager as he has the balls for the job and for the first time since Martin O’Neill, he tells it how it is – and oh, how they hate it!
Compare him to Gordon Strachan, by way of example.
In his first match against Rangers, Celtic had Alan Thompson and Neil Lennon sent off.
That day Celtic committed 9 fouls while Rangers committed 20.
We had 2 men sent off and 2 booked, Rangers had 3 men booked.
Gordon Strachan should have complained – we all felt that – but he left it for another two months before he made any comment.
In Tony Mowbray’s first match against them, we had four men booked in a 2-1 defeat, which doesn’t seem too bad, until I remind you that this was the match when Celtic were denied not one but two stonewall penalties – which the referee later admitted were wrong decisions.
The grievance grows when you remember one of our bookings was for diving by Shaun Maloney when the world could see he was fouled for a penalty.
Like Strachan, Mowbray only spoke out months down the line.
So here is what Neil Lennon is guilty of – he is guilty, , in the eyes of a sizeable, bigoted portion of Scottish society of simply saying ‘NO!’
He has been found guilty for sticking his head up to be shot at and sticking it up again, in any case, without the white flag that ‘they’ so desire to see.
Neil Lennon is also guilty of not being in the Largs mafia.
Again, to illustrate, only one other manager in Scotland has really had a proper go at refs.
Where is he now? He is managing the Scottish national team!
Walter Smith, Watty, Mr Smith, Gaffer – whatever his sycophants in the media want to dub him, has came out and publically stated that he “sang the songs”, he joined in with the songs that UEFA themselves deem “sectarian” but, almost comically, he has been praised for this, just as Rangers continue to be lauded and congratulated by some for breaking their own sectarian signing policy which stretched back for most of the last century.
Neil Lennon, on the contrary, has never been seen, recorded or even rumoured to have been seen singing Irish rebel songs, to the best of my knowledge.
Neil Lennon has always participated in mixed football teams, even at five a sides and has also stood under flags he probably doesn’t regard as his own.
The underlying message sent out from recent events seem to say only one thing – Neil Lennon brings this all on himself only if he stays in Scotland!
But to those who continue to threaten and try and kill him, I say this;
I AM NEIL LENNON.