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Thursday 17 April 2014

Lennon: Stokes damaged Celtic name

ANTHONY STOKES has been told by Celtic manager Neil Lennon that he damaged the club's reputation by attending a memorial service for a murdered leader of the Real IRA.

The 24-year-old, who has not played since August because of an ankle injury, was photographed at an event commemorating Alan Ryan, Dublin commander of the Real IRA, who was gunned down outside his home in September.

On the day of Ryan's funeral Stokes posted a message on his Twitter account that read: "Thinking of you Alan..." and used the social networking site to threaten to sue an Irish journalist working in Scotland, who had said that the player's actions had "disgraced Celtic."

Stokes later received a tweet from a user who wrote that he hoped "the UVF put a bullet in your head."

When asked if Celtic had warned Stokes about his behaviour, Lennon said: "Yes we have. We spoke to him internally.

"I am not going to moralise to him, but you cannot damage the reputation of the club. He is aware of that now. The matter has been dealt with internally."

Lennon, meanwhile, is not surprised by SPL secretary Iain Blair's revelation that fixtures cannot be moved to help Celtic with their Champions League hopes.

Celtic will play in the last 16 of European football's elite competition in February amid a packed schedule and Blair was reported as saying: "Logistically, it just isn't possible to reschedule games at this time."

Ahead of tonight's Scottish Cup fourth-round replay against Second Division side Arbroath at Gayfield Park, the Parkhead boss responded: "We have never asked for it (help), so I don't know where this story has come from. It would put the SPL in a difficult position because they have been criticised for not helping teams in the past, so I wouldn't expect that to happen to us. We will deal with it."

Lennon is looking for his side to continue their good recent form against the Red Lichties, who snatched a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in the first game.

The Hoops qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League last week with a 2-1 home win over Spartak Moscow then followed that up with a sparkling display against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park to take them three points clear of Inverness at the top of the SPL.

The former Celtic skipper said: "We are taking this game very seriously.

"It is a different competition, but one where we have had no recent success and we would like to progress so it is another important game.

"The way things have been going in the last week to 10 days, you want to keep that feel-good factor going."

Lennon, who has defender Mikael Lustig and midfielder Paddy McCourt back after recovering from hamstring injuries, has warned his players that they will have to cope with the more basic surroundings of Gayfield Park, having recently played at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, Spartak Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium and Benfica's Stadium of Light in Lisbon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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