Monday 18 December 2017

Lennon drops clear-out hint as Celtic hit with €50,000 banner fine

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon

Roddy Forsyth

A generous helping of salt was rubbed into Celtic's raw flesh last night when Uefa fined the club €50,000 for the political banners brandished by the Green Brigade at the Champions League home tie against AC Milan last month

A statement from Celtic -- who are at home to Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership today -- warned against further displays by the Green Brigade, who have been removed from Section 111, where they used to congregate, while 218 fans have been handed precautionary suspensions.

The statement read: "Regrettably, due to previous charges being brought against the club, again following the actions of a small minority, the fines imposed by UEFA are increasing in scale. It goes without saying that such actions must stop now, before the club receives a competitive sanction or one which would affect our supporters attending European matches."

The sanction completed a hard week for the SPFL leaders -- the concession of six goals to Barcelona in the Nou Camp was their worst ever loss in European competition.

The last thing Neil Lennon wanted after Celtic's 6-1 defeat was what he got in abundance -- sympathy. Lennon confessed to a degree of self-torment yesterday but added that it was not soothed by well meaning responses from those closest to him.

"People look at you -- your family and friends -- they give you a sympathetic, 'You're all right' look, with a wee smile. You feel like you're a leper, that you're really ill or something like that. That's just natural -- human beings wanting to feel for you but the last thing you want is sympathy.

"I don't need sympathy, I've got a great job. We've been pretty successful and this time we've had a bad campaign, but it is where we are and we look to build on that and progress and get better.

"Domestically we've done really well but that sticks in my throat as well because we're just expected to do well domestically and everyone was looking to the Champions League for the buzz. Now that's over we have to create our own buzz again."

Lennon had earlier attended a board meeting, but it was a scheduled affair -- "nothing to do with Wednesday night, thankfully. I'm still here" -- although that did not stop him being pressed again about his team's standing in the wake of a lacklustre Champions League campaign and such rough handling by Barca.

"Obviously we're all sore and disappointed with the way the campaign finished but we set ourselves a very high bar last year and we weren't able to replicate it, for varying reasons," he said.

"We lost, or sold, three very good players and for me we were in the toughest group. Financially we are way, way out of that league. We can compete in footballing terms, we can't compete financially."

In Spain Lennon condemned his players for being "weak" and "lacking bravery on the ball" and yesterday he admitted that one or two might have accomplished as much as they can at Parkhead.

"Whether they can go to the well again is another thing," he mused. "People say the players aren't good enough -- they are good enough -- but for us to hit the ground running this year was very difficult in a short space of time and the group we were in.


"I live in hope and belief and in the back of my crappy old mind I feel I can beat Barcelona, but sometimes you get a bloody nose and sometimes you win. It can be a humbling experience but against world-class opposition in almost every position, I think the players can learn.

"So maybe they need a bit of time before we can go again. The main thing is to make the Champions League and have a go at it from there.

"Juventus are out this year. Benfica, Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk -- who have spent over £100m -- didn't make the last 16, so it shows you how difficult it can be.

"You can see where the power lies in football, for this year anyway. It's unrealistic to think that we can make the last 16 on a regular basis."

As for the suggestion that Lennon might walk away, having hit his limits at Parkhead, he retorted tartly: "I might get the sack tomorrow, I don't know.

"It's a privilege to be the manager of Celtic.

"There are millions of good managers out there without a job. I can't be blase enough to think 'Well, I've done my bit here, I'm not getting what I want, it's time for me to stomp off somewhere else'.

"That, to me, is a spoiled brat kind of attitude." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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