The support for Neil Lennon at the game last night was something special and you could see even from the television pictures that he was moved, something that was confirmed by Johann at the after match media conference.
The other evening I watched ‘The Kennedy’s’ on T.V. and was minded last night of the incidents involving James Meredith when he tried to take his rightful place at the University of Mississippi – O’l Miss. At the time – I am old enough to remember it – and again watching it on T.V., I wondered where Meredith got his courage and how he was able to face the wall of hatred that he encountered for the crime of being black in the Southern States of the Land of the Free.
There are surely echoes of this in the experience of being Neil Lennon at this time. While he is assured of the support – indeed the love – of a whole community, there is more than enough evidence that he is a legitimate target for not a few in the poisonous netherworld of the follow followers. I noted that whilst our own were showing their solidarity with Neil, that there were more than a few boos from the Kilmarnock support – something at which one can only shake one’s head. It is however a reminder that the evil media campaign which some in our so called news outlets have conducted, whereby whatever happens to Lennon is somehow justified because he is ‘hot tempered, fiery, volatile’, has had a marked effect on many in this country.
Every week at our seniors’ golf gathering I am forced to defend Neil Lennon because most of them accept what they read in the papers. They are not all Huns, and some are well educated professional men, but they have reached the conclusion that there is no smoke without fire simply because they rely on the mainstream media for their information.
It was this mentality which allowed upright middle class people to sanction the persecution of blacks in countries all over the world, which allowed such as Hitler to rise to power in what was regarded as one of the most civilised nations in Europe, and which allows many in the establishment in our own small nation to think that the good ol’ boys who inhabit the Rangers end and who parade up and down our streets in Orange Parades might just have the truth of it with regards to their Catholic and Irish neighbours.
When Eddie posed the question which heads this article, I was aware that it had crossed my own mind, that for his own sake Neil might be forced out of the club he loves – something which would be a tragedy for both the manager and ourselves since he is our best and brightest hope of a return to the days of glory.
Just over a year ago I penned a piece for this site called ‘The Hoops Doonhame’ in which I reported on a visit to our Burgh by the Development squad, coached by one Neil Lennon. In short, I wrote of a very effective team showing by the reserves and recorded my very positive impressions of the young coach, his tactics, the performance and the awareness he had of the fans who had turned up that day, sending the team over at the end, and taking time to sign autographs and be photographed with all and sundry.
I was not to know that within a few short weeks he would hold the reigns at Celtic Park and life as we know it would be changed dramatically.
This change, as we now know, would not only embrace Celtic, but all of Scottish Football and in time perhaps all of Scottish Society.
The reactions of the press and broadcast media was predictable. The Ross County debacle has been held over him like the sword of Damocles in the forlorn hope amongst the lap top loyal that every time we take the field another such banana skin awaits.
His frustration at palpably dishonest or incompetent decisions was seen as evidence of a lack of stability, of gravitas, indeed dignity. Unlike the grey fox across the city, the media man’s darling, Neil’s every transgression was exposed in full, picked over and analysed until there was no doubt in anyone’s mind – except our own – that he was in the words of Willy Wonka – ‘a bad egg’.
If one were to believe the Scottish sporting press, his coat has been on a shoogly nail since day one. Even yesterday doubts were expressed in the papers as to whether or not he would be in post next season should we fail to win the league. It is my own view that if he were not to be given a new or extended contract there would be cries amongst our own for gatherings in the car park and shouts of ‘Sack the Board’.
Neil Lennon is hated outwith our own community because not only does he pose a threat to the Rangers hegemony, but he is totally in tune with the people who follow this club.
Even if he were to leave tomorrow he would, in my view be seen as one of the greatest ever Celts. He might not figure in the list of the greatest ever players, time will tell if he will be amongst the great managers, but his empathy with the club, its values and its traditions cannot be surpassed and his place in our history is assured.
Are we being fair in hoping that he continues in post, given all that he has to deal with? Are we right in wishing that he puts us before his own welfare and that of his family?
In a sense I think we are. Being manager of Celtic is what makes Neil Lennon complete. He has earned the right to show his qualities in the job he loves. Success with this team and hopefully subsequent teams for years to come will prove to be the ultimate GIRUY to the cretins and imbeciles whose aim is to drive him out.
In a greater sense he has done Scotland the nation a great service. The treatment he has endured has created such a hullabaloo that it will not go away. It is international news and the eyes of the sporting world are watching to see if at last Scotland can deal with the real elephant in the room. We have known and experienced it since the nineteenth century, but at last it is acknowledge as the evil that it is and for that we can thank Neil Lennon and give him as much support as possible for the present time.
A year after James Meredith ran the gauntlet at Ol’ Miss Bob Dylan penned the song ‘The Times they are a changing. Thanks to the courage and example of Neil Lennon the song has a resonance even today.