Friday 19 January 2018

Lennon tries to move on from penalty saga

Neil Lennon. Photo: Getty Images
Neil Lennon. Photo: Getty Images

Celtic manager Neil Lennon today refused to be drawn on the on-going referees saga which began with a rescinded penalty almost three weeks ago at Tannadice - but insists neither he nor his players have done anything wrong.

Following an investigation into the incident by the Scottish Football Association, referee Dougie McDonald was given a warning by the SFA's referees committee over his failure to properly articulate assistant Steven Craven's role in his report and in discussions with the referees observer.

McDonald admitted lying to Lennon after the game and since then the debate about refereeing standards has spiralled into something approaching hysteria.

Earlier this week Celtic striker Gary Hooper, who was involved in the challenge with Dundee United goalkeeper Dusan Pernis which sparked the controversy, claimed McDonald should not officiate again in the SPL.

In anticipation of Celtic issuing a statement later today, Lennon said: "I don't think we have done anything wrong and the players don't think they have done anything wrong either.

"All I have been doing is concentrating on the games. The club will make a statement today and we will follow on after that.

"I have not mentioned it to the players at all. It is out of our hands at the moment.

"They are footballers who want to play football and win things and that has been our main focus in the last six months."

Asked if the issue would help foster a siege mentality at Parkhead, the former Hoops skipper replied: "I hope so. We are trying to build that anyway and this is a back-handed way of doing it.

"But we will use it as a motivation for the players."

Ahead of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Aberdeen at Celtic Park, where victory will see his side go top of the table for 24 hours at least, Lennon was pleased to welcome Hoops legend Henrik Larsson to the club's Lennoxtown training complex.

The Swede, who played for Celtic between 1997 and 2004, is in Glasgow for Sunday's tribute dinner for former team-mate Chris Sutton.

Larsson took the opportunity to join in training and Lennon is hoping some of his ex-team-mate's magic has rubbed off.

"We had been talking on the phone the last few weeks and he wanted to come and see the facilities and it was nice to have him here," Lennon said.

"Hopefully they will have taken a bit of inspiration from it.

"He was absolutely great and some of the younger centre-halves will have maybe learned something from him today.

"We said to the players 'There's your marker, aspire to be like that guy'.

"He didn't have it easy in his career but with dedication, talent and hard work you can get to the very top of the game and hopefully to see the man himself will be motivation for the players.

"If any manager had a Larsson in his team he would be a potent threat against any team. I was lucky to play with him for four or five seasons with Johan Mjallby and Alan Thompson.

"He was a great team-mate, great player, a great goalscorer and scorer of important goals. The players can only learn from seeing him close up."

Niall McGinn admitted he had enjoyed training alongside one of his idols.

The Northern Ireland international said: "Just watching him training was an inspiration. I grew up watching him and to have a player of his calibre joining in was good.

"Even though he is about 40 he showed the young boys how to do it. He is a great man to have about the place."

Press Association

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