When Neil Lennon received death threats before a Northern Ireland match against Cyprus in August 2002, it was enough to make the Lurgan man call time on his international career. And rightly so. What’s the point? However, what he has endured as Celtic manager in recent times beggars belief.
In January of this year, a package containing bullets addressed to Lennon was intercepted at a sorting office in Antrim. Then, just last March, a parcel-bomb was intercepted at a post office in Kirkintilloch, around eight miles outside Glasgow. It was addressed to Lennon at Celtic’s training ground. It was initially thought thought by police to be a hoax but after forensic specialists examined the parcel, the police said that it was actually a “viable device”. If that wasn’t scary enough, last night when Celtic faced Hearts at Tynecastle, a fan (or nutjob) stormed over the fence where the Hearts fans were sitting and made a run at Lennon and attacked him. Three major incidents since January. And three too many.
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The death threats, the abuse and now physical attacks that Neil Lennon has had to endure over the past year as Celtic boss are not only unnecessary and ridiculous, but also would be quite frightening for any person. “We obviously have to see how he is going to react to this” Celtic assistant Johan Mjallby said last night. If I was in Lennon’s boots, having been repeatedly threatened in the past year, I would be reconsidering my position as manager in Scotland. Some things are simply more important than football. I love the beautiful game. This ugliness has no place in it.