Lennon- Special Privilege for Neil Lennon and Celtic?
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 17: Neil Lennon, Manager of Celtic arrives at the stadium prior to the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park on October 17, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Elite Sport is in a privileged position. Everybody knows that’s the case, don’t they? Athletes worldwide are being allowed to participate in their fields of excellence despite the fact the majority of the world’s population are facing severe restrictions and upheaval in their daily lives.

I myself have barely worked for almost a year. I had a couple of months at the start of last year then another couple after the first lockdown was lifted. I’ve been fortunate in regards to my health and my family’s well being. I’ve barely seen my children during the pandemic. They’re 22 and 19 years old, young adults. I can say the same about my parents and my brothers and their families.

Their lives have been turned upside down. Lockdown rules have affected every single one or us, but I feel more sorry for the younger generation and the older people in society than someone my own age. I believe the restrictions placed upon us are harder to deal with for them than it is for me. It’s just my opinion, but that’s my thinking on this pandemic.

Thousands of people have died in Scotland. This virus has done untold damage to families, to people’s health, to schools, to the elderly, to businesses, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and society, in general, has been decimated. In the main, most working and living within elite sport recognise that. Well, I would hope they do anyway.

Restrictions to normal life have been devastating to so many people in Scotland and indeed across the world, and as yet there’s no end in sight to the damage being done by Covid19.

If anything, the dangers facing us all are now at the point where the risks of untold damage to people’s mental health, the economy, and our National Health Service are very real.

Our government has deemed this horrific virus as a clear and present danger to all of us. Restrictions are so severe now that it’ll take at least a generation to get this country back into a position where normality and our way of life will be on the levels we had prior to this pandemic.

Restrictions are in place for a reason. That reason is to stop people from dying. There’s no debating this. No ifs, buts or maybes. When people are dying daily, when hundreds are being hospitalised on a daily basis those restrictions that have had a catastrophic effect on millions of people whether it be financially, like me, or more seriously when families face the prospect of their mum, dad, grandparent of becoming ill, put in a hospital, put on a ventilator or worse..  passing away. Alone.

This is why Elite Sport and its participants are in an incredibly privileged position, and none of those involved should ever consider themselves not to be.

That’s the predicament we are in. The governments of the world are attempting to navigate a global pandemic. In doing so, whether you agree with the restrictions placed upon our way of life or not, that is a fundamental truth. Football is and has been a way of navigating our way through the banality of lockdowns, of being unable to work or being so skint you can barely afford to eat.

These restrictions are real; they’re affecting everybody. Normal life seems to be a thing of past, like a figment of our imagination. The impositions facing every single person in the country are like nothing any of us have ever had to endure. Life is tough at the minute. For all of us.

That stark truth makes Neil Lennon’s outburst on Monday all the more unfathomable. The Celtic manager took a machine gun to a smarty party, and it really wasn’t a good look for the Northern Irishman. Talk about making yourself look like you’re incapable of understanding the lay of the land.

Neil Lennon
Celtic’s Scottish head coach Neil Lennon gestures during the UEFA Europa League 1st round group H football match between Celtic and AC Milan at Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland on October 22, 2020. (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE / POOL / AFP)

He claimed Celtic were being held to a higher standard than anyone else. He told journalists they were hypocritical and pontificating. He claimed Celtic had done nothing wrong, he suggested coming back from a trip to Dubai with two cases of Covid could’ve happened in Scotland anyway.

He suggested there was a bloodlust for him to lose his job, the media has an agenda against Celtic, and quite possibly the worst comment of all was the ludicrous notion that the decision to tell Celtic that thirteen players, himself, his assistant and another member of staff had to isolate was political.

Really? Seriously, this guy needs to take a serious, hard look at himself here. This is the same government that allowed them to go to Dubai. This is the same government that suggested they time out to consider their actions; meanwhile, the First Minister wasn’t overly critical of them despite the fact they quite clearly broke Elite Sport Protocols.

Pictures show them out by a pool with other guests in close proximity. That is a breach of protocols. There’s a photo where several players are in a bar with no masks, drinking while not socially distancing. That is also a breach of protocols.

Are they minor breaches or slip ups, as John Kennedy put it? Maybe, but that is not and never will be the point.

Being in the privileged position of being allowed to go to Dubai to do sunny weather training, while the entire population is at their wits end with the way life is at the moment means they CANNOT break the protocols they’re being asked to adhere to. What he then proceeded to do was attempt to throw Scottish football under a bus.

He had a go at St Johnstone for the size of their dressing rooms. He had a pop at Hamilton Accies, well, just because. He had a go at the Joint Response Group, the Scottish national team and several of his own players for doing the conga.

This whataboutery is nauseating. It’s this “do as I say not as I do” attitude that’s got him, his CEO and his football club into this mess. It truly is a debacle of their own making.

They went to Dubai. They broke the protocols and yet, as was seen last week the SFA defended them for that. Plus Ian Maxwell even had the audacity to suggest they had no case to answer, despite Celtic’s assistant manager telling us all that there had been slip-ups regarding protocols being adhered to.

The SPFL have said they won’t criticise them, maybe that’s the correct course of action, maybe it isn’t. However, when the same organisation attempted to make St Mirren and Kilmarnock forfeit points for minor breaches of the protocols elite sport is being told to adhere to? Well, that is hypocrisy. That is double standards, that’s looking like you’re scared to deal with the chaos caused by a member club. A member club who believes itself to be infallible.

Lennon also claimed that Celtic were being bullied. That’s a bold statement. It’s also a load of nonsense. He had a right go at Andy Walker, ex Celtic player and Sky Sports pundit. No one cares enough to bully you or your team, Mr Lennon. I’m sure it was Napoleon that said, “never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake”, and that’s exactly what everyone else not connected to Celtic appear to be doing. Saying nothing, just letting them get on with making an arse of themselves.

Walker ripped into Celtic before the Hibs game last Monday. It was impassioned, it was from the heart, and you could hear the emotion in his voice. Yet, and for sure, what he said rung true to the majority of Celtic fans. Walker played for Celtic; he signed for them twice. He won trophies with them, and he’s a Celtic fan. If he can’t say anything without being told that his employers will get nothing from Celtic, (despite them being contractually obliged to do so) then who can? The arrogance seeped through every pore during that press conference. As far as Neil Lennon’s concerned Celtic need not answer to anybody. Check you, mate…

Have we to take it that no one is allowed to share their feelings about Celtic unless you’re praising them?

That sounds a little bit like a despot in North Korea if you ask me.

That’s Celtic, Lennon and Peter Lawwell’s problem here. The majority of the anger, the fallout and the frenzied furore are coming from their own fans.

Peter Lawwell
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – MAY 27: Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell looks on during the William Hill Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Aberdeen at Hampden Park on May 27, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It’s the Celtic support that are utterly pissed off with the antics of their own club here. Everybody else is falling about laughing at them. That’s the reality, and it might be about time someone decided they’d better mention it to Peter Lawwell or Neil Lennon. They appear so detached from reality here that it’s coming across as delusional. As I said last week, there are narcissistic tendencies showing at that club, from the top down. From Chief Executive to manager, to the captain to players all the way down to the rank and file fanbase.

The elephant in the room for Celtic isn’t going away, you can deflect attention away from the fact you’re 21 points behind, you can sweep the catastrophic European results under the carpet, you can ignore the fact Ross County knocked you out of the cup, but you can’t force your fans to believe your poor attempts at trying to control the narrative when your team puts in performances so bad that people forking it five hundred quid and more for the “privilege” of watching that mince on their television. It doesn’t wash, not with anybody.

Bear in mind this is a Public Limited Company, answerable to shareholders. If Lennon was given the go ahead to say all the things he did by someone above him, then the issues ensuing that club are much more serious than any of us would believe.

None of what he said yesterday made much sense. This was a guy that had been forced to self isolate for ten days. This was a man that had had plenty of time to reflect, to align himself with his CEO, to take the party line that Lawwell had put out last week. He chose to burn the bridge Peter Lawwell precariously built last week. If I were Lawwell, I’d be livid.

Lawwell said with hindsight they shouldn’t have gone to Dubai, he apologised to Celtic supporters then proceeded to tell us all Celtic had been affected more than any other club.

That’s the problem with that press conference. Lennon has sat stewing for a week, thinking a government has it in for him, his club, and his club only. He sat foaming at the mouth for a whole week deliberating on what he was going to do and say at that presser.

Talk about being incapable of reading a room? No one forced them to go to Dubai; no one else broke the rules in Dubai. Celtic did. Celtic and Celtic alone. For Lennon to come out yesterday and say one case of Covid was remarkable only to be told during the press conference there was another case meaning there was now two cases of Covid at Celtic Park and still pontificate that this was “remarkable”? Well, that’s being utterly incapable of thinking clearly.

Yet after a week where he’s watched his boss apologise, he vented his spleen. The media, the government and everybody else, including Scottish football clubs, are all wrong and Celtic are right. We’ve heard it all before, it’s not new, and it’s now so predictable that no one’s surprised at all.

What should really concern anyone connected to Celtic here is the “they’re out to get us” approach. You should be alarmed at the road Lennon decided to travel on Monday. He genuinely believes every word of what he said, and that should terrify everybody.

Moaning about how the government’s track and trace policy is a policy that’s out to damage Celtic and Celtic alone is a paranoia that defies any logical scrutiny. Being on an aeroplane or a bus when you’re an elite athlete is no different from being an ordinary citizen on a bus or a plane. Just because you’re Celtic doesn’t exclude you from the rules and regulations. To think otherwise is borderline delusional. No, it is totally delusional.

I actually found some of the things he spoke about yesterday pretty despicable if I’m honest. While football is a much needed distraction to what’s going on in the world right now, any footballer, manager, sportsman, etc. thinking they’re being hard done to is reprehensible, and I await the SFA’s compliance officer calling him up to Hampden Park on a bringing the game into disrepute charge.

Ultimately Neil Lennon’s press conference epitomised the victim mentality both he and the club he manages have and have had for generations.

It’s a culmination of twenty years of a compliant media pandering to his every statement. The end product of a scenario where you get virtually no bad press and can twist journalists round your little finger because of their football allegiance.

Celtic have been the Scottish media’s golden child for so long that the first time they’ve had to endure a bit of criticism, we witness the bizarre spectacle of their manager believing he can chastise and castigate absolutely everybody that doesn’t fall into line while throwing his rattle, his dummy and his comfort blanket out the pram while he’s at it.

Who do they think they are? Seriously? You couldn’t mark their necks with a blowtorch. They’re utterly shameless, and as someone who’s only been financially affected by this pandemic, I really do hate to think how people out there who’ve lost loved ones feel about some football manager, with all the privileges that are afforded to them (including getting on a plane and going to Dubai without a care in the world), coming out with ridiculous comments?

Football is still going on, despite Lennon’s best efforts to throw the game here in Scotland under a bus. His attempts to antagonise the Scottish government and to insinuate that other clubs have more issues regarding working with the protocols put in place to allow the game to continue fooled nobody. I think Lennon overegged the theatrics way too much yesterday.

Humility is required. There appears to be none of that at Celtic Park. Lennon epitomised the arrogance that’s surrounded that football club for way too long on in that press conference on Monday.

This is Public Relations disaster, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why so few involved with Celtic don’t see that.

Steven Gerrard
Rangers v Celtic – Scottish Premiership – Ibrox Stadium Rangers manager Steven Gerrard gestures towards his watch during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder. PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xAndrewxMilliganx 57358133

Rangers are still twenty-one points clear. Rangers are going about their business quietly and effectively, and for the first time in years, despite slipping up, their rivals couldn’t take advantage of it.

While professionalism, focus and pride are enveloping everything Rangers do this season; the lack of morals, the dearth of class and blind panic is all you can find in the green half of Glasgow.

People dying, people becoming ill, people going hungry, people losing their jobs, people losing their homes are the real issues here. For Celtic to attempt to throw the Scottish Government off the path of containing this deadly pandemic is a new low, even for them.

They want football stopped. They want to use their preferred media outlets to spin that narrative. It’s already started with BBC Scotland spending an entire hour this morning (Tuesday) spewing anti-football rhetoric all over our airwaves.

Make no mistake, that’s what was on Neil Lennon’s mind when he decided to throw angry wee man grenades all over the shop on Monday. An agenda so pathetic and so transparent it’s laughable.

I doubt very much it’ll work mind. Scotland have World Cup qualifiers in March. They’ll have to forfeit them…. The national team’s going to the Euros, with games being played at Hampden. An awful lot of money involved there too. I doubt they’ll be getting to host those games or play in the tournament if our game gets shut down due to an idiotic club doing all it can to deny being idiotic.

As well as those spanners in the works, the precedent has already been set. Null and Void isn’t an option. We will have the same scenario as last season where clubs will end up taking the SPFL and perhaps the SFA to court.

All in all, your antics were in terrible taste, Mr Lennon. Your team have blown it; you can shout, ball and scream all you like, it makes no difference. The entire country is laughing at you and the way you’re making your club look.

You reap what you sow. Karma can be a fantastic equaliser sometimes, and I, for one, am loving every single second of this implosion.

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Thoughts on Scottish football. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.