From phone-ins to the written press to TV broadcasts, Neil Lennon has been subjected to the level of spin that Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell would be proud of.
Throughout his Celtic career, Lennon was targeted as an overly aggressive player, at times labelled a snarling dog. Yet in all his time at Celtic Park how many bookings did he receive? Not as many as some would lead you to believe. Yes he was confrontational and was passionate on the field, but what great central midfielder isn't? Roy Keane is a prime example of a dominant central midfielder who is passionate, who is confrontational and who likes to get a bit lippy and stuck in. So where were his bombs, bullets, assaults?
During the Summer, Celtic travelled Down Under on a Pre-season tour of Australia. But the tour was overshadowed - in the Scottish press that is - of his comments on a stunt by some Rangers fans in Perth.
The Perth Rangers Supporters Club tried to goad Celtic by organising a plane to fly over the stadium just before kick off trailing a banner that boasted about Rangers' three SPL titles in a row.
Lennon was asked after the match about the stunt and he told reporters: "Well, you'd think they'd have better things to do following their team in Germany (for their pre-season tour) than pay a lot of money to annoy us, I think they're a wee bit obsessed with us at the minute."
Nothing twisted or hate-filled in those comments, in fact the video footage of the post match interview saw Lennon quite calm and collected when answering.
Cue the headlines from the Scottish newspapers:
"Neil Lennon raps plane crazy Rangers fans"
"Lenny’s air rage"
Yet check out these headlines from non-Scottish based media outlets:
"Celtic shrug off Rangers plane stunt"
"Celtic manager Neil Lennon unfazed by Rangers flyover stunt"
The Scottish media outlets had a field day last season with the number of incidents that revolved around the Celtic and Neil Lennon. And by all accounts it looks as though they are looking to continue this, by fuelling the flames of hate that burn between the Lurgan man and Rangers supporters.
In the 11 years that Lennon has been at Celtic, not once did any newspaper outlet publish an article condemning the attacks or threats on Lennon. They used it to fuel stories, with pundits giving their opinions on why Lennon brought it upon himself, and that given he lives in the goldfish bowl of Glasgow, he should stay indoors. Comments coming from former players who boozed it up to the early hours when they were at Celtic or Rangers in the 1970s and 80s, even those who haven't kick a ball in anger as a professional got in on the act, trying to take the moral high ground.
He was also blamed for the 'Old Firm shame game' which saw three Rangers players sent off and a few words exchanged between Lennon and Ally McCoist. Photos published in the papers the next few days used one angle - showing an angry Lennon reacting to something that McCoist said. But the media darling that is McCoist was the innocent party according to some, with the specific photo used as evidence. Yet the media failed to publish another one showing McCoist being dragged back not once, twice or three times but four times in the same match.
Despite that 'shame game' the only person to be punished was Neil Lennon. Ally McCoist walked out of Hampden Park with a big cheshire cat grin on his face, while El Hadji Diouf and Madjid Bougherra, despite being castigated by SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan in the press for manhandling referee Calum Murray, were given measly fines for their part in the shame game. But as ever it was Neil Lennon's fault and the media foamed at the mouth at all the articles that came their way.
After that match, Aberdeen manager Craig Brown and Motherwell Chairman John Boyle squared up on the touchline at Fir Park getting physical also. Yet after a few months of 'investigation' both individuals were let off - where was the summit and the headlines over that incident? In fact Craig Brown's antics that season was laughed off by the same pundits and commentators who had been attacking Lennon for 11 years. Craig Brown punches an Odense official and it is laughed off.
Craig Brown man handles his former chairman which results in officials, players and police getting involved. Decision - Not Guilty and what a hoot!
Neil Lennon reacts angrily to something that McCoist says to him at the end of the match. Dragged away by his assistant Alan Thompson, while McCoist stands back with a wry smile on his face. Decison - Lennon is at fault once again and after 'investigations' and a PR stunt summit we will find those involved from Rangers Not Guilty.
It was only after the Scottish Government, the Police, the Westminster government got involved that the media then changed their tune and denounced those targeting Lennon, all the while trying to ignore the years of abuse and hatred that they tried to blame on Lennon himself.
Most officials, fans and football personalities hope and prey that Neil Lennon does not go through a season like he did last season. However you can bet on the Editors and the bean counters in Scotland's mainstream media, hoping and praying it continues to a certain degree to sell more papers, to gain more air time.
Celtic and Rangers cover 90% of the Scottish Football coverage in our media, and with Neil Lennon at the helm at Celtic Park the focus will as per usual for the coming season fall squarely on the shoulders of the Lurgan man. And with some papers cutting jobs and others losing circulation numbers dramatically, they will use any trick any angle to sell more copies.
Maybe this year, maybe this season will be different. Sadly I won't be counting my chickens that's for sure.
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