ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Celtic FC
soccernet blog
Celtic FC
Posted by Andy Muirhead on 04/15/2012

Last weekend Celtic secured their first championship title in four years at Rugby Park with a 6-0 demolition of the side that beat them in the League Cup Final just a few weeks earlier. Sunday saw Celtic face Hearts for a place in the Scottish Cup Final, with Hibernian waiting in the wings.

However, Hearts secured a 2-1 victory to set up an all-Edinburgh final, which is now being dubbed the Salt 'n' Sauce final.

But, rather than seeing the failings of his own side, manager Neil Lennon rounded on the referee at the final whistle. The Northern Irishman stormed onto the pitch at full time and confronted Euan Norris, after he awarded a penalty to Hearts in the dying minutes of the game and then rejected a similar penalty decision for Celtic soon after at the other end.

Later Lennon described the decision to award a penalty against Celtic and not one for them, as 'personal'.

Lennon's comments and actions will certainly see him fall foul of the SFA Compliance Officer Vincent Lunny, which will be his fourth charge in as many weeks, ultimately such charges levelled at the Celtic manager could see him start next season in the stands rather than where he should be in the dugout.

Now last season Lennon was the subject of death threats, parcel bombs and an assault. He has been the target of thugs, scum and cretins for over ten years ever since he signed for Celtic, but his actions on Sunday brought shame on Celtic Football Club, and his predecessors that he looks up to with such esteem and pride.

You can bang on about dignity and respect, but when you are in the position of authority that Lennon is in you have to take a step back, take a deep breath and then choose your words carefully. Even more so when you are facing three disciplinary charges for comments made after previous games.

I know that passions run high in football, but even for a Celtic fan the persecution and conspiracy theory line has worn thin and now just reeks of passing the buck.

Rather than running onto the pitch to confront the referee, Lennon should have congratulated all the Hearts players and then went down the tunnel into the Celtic changing room to tear a strip or twenty off his players, for they are the ones that lost the semi final and not the referee.

It is all too easy to blame the referee and Scottish football fans have a habit of blaming the men in the middle for their poor decisions, some claim that they are pro-Rangers, pro-Celtic or just pro-Old Firm but there is no conspiracy from the Scottish FA, there is no conspiracy from the referees. But when it comes to football fans looking for excuses the cogs turn and the predictable statement is - it’s the referees fault.

Can we just take a step back and realise that one decision does not ultimately cost a team the game.

Celtic's performance on Sunday was like chalk and cheese to their title winning game against Kilmarnock last week. In fact ever since Rangers entered administration back in February, Celtic's performances have dropped and while they still picked up wins, when it came to the big games they have been posted missing - Rangers, League Cup Final and Scottish Cup Semi Final.

I have a lot of time for Neil Lennon and have interviewed him post-match on several occasions but his constant utilisation of the victim excuse and the conspiracy theory, only peddles to those elements of fans who think that everyone is against them.

Celtic fans will celebrate the title win in a few games and deservedly so, however the failure to win not only the League Cup Final and reach the Scottish Cup Final are a stain on Celtic's season, especially after that superb winning run which saw Celtic leapfrog rivals Rangers into top spot after being 15 points behind back in November.

Over the summer Peter Lawwell needs to sit Neil Lennon down and read him the riot act. He has a responsibility to not only Celtic Football Club, but also to the players under his charge and the fans who support the club.

Whether the players and the fans lose their rag over decisions made, Lennon should lead by example, in both victory and in defeat.

However today's issues fall squarely at the feet of the players and the manager. Neil Lennon selected the team, he set the team's formation and tactics. The players were poor in defence and the attackers were firing blanks for much of the game up front. They had chances to secure the win in both halves, but just like against Kilmarnock in the League Cup Final, it was these missed chances that saw Celtic lose the games.

It is far from personal despite what Lennon claims and on a day like today - when the city of Liverpool grinds to a halt to remember the 96 who never came home from a football match - claiming that refereeing decisions are personal is downright ridiculous and disrespectful.

Follow ESPNsoccernetFC on Twitter


Posted by Paul Crossan on 04/15/2012

If that was a Scotland game - you would have the referee lynched - too many mistakes!!!

- Black fouls Ledley - sending off - no it's a booking - then black handles the ball - referee ingnores - should have been sent off.

- never a penalty -referee tells celtic players it was victor not ledley that handled it - your wrong - then I am hearing he never even saw it.

- Then Webster handles it - no penalty!!

All we are asking for his fairness -the SFA have it in for Celtic and Neil Lennon.

We were not at out best but decisions change games and we didn't deserve to lose today. Hearts are terrible! Craig beattie scores and tours the stadium with his goal - if that was Neil Lennon - he would have been off!!

Again if that's was Scotland v England in a playoff final and the ref awarded a penalty it would be front page - ref is a j but because it's Celtic - We hate Scotland and are pro Ireland - After today's decision do you really blame us. Scotland is pro-protestant!!!!

Posted by Bob on 04/15/2012

While I agree with most of your blog, one decision DID change this game. The referee gave a penalty that was most definately not a penalty. Yes Lennon needs to get a grip but the referee handed Hearts the game today. Celtic might not have won if it had gone to extra time but we will never know as the ref had the final say. Not how it should have ended at all. While Lennon was out of order at the end of the game the referee has to be accountable for making a clear error that had a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

Posted by conjoined cheeks on 04/15/2012

fair play - fair comments but the vhictims will never agree!

Posted by blue bear on 04/15/2012

Hear hear! Same old Lennon, always cheated - never defeated! Hope they throw the book at him.

Posted by KJB on 04/16/2012

Neil Lennon is an overly passionate man who has been lucky or unlucky to get the position of manager of Celtic FC far too early in his managerial career.

He is emotionally immature, with respect t such a position - there is a tremendous amount of personal Helene and a spine of steel with unbridled self belief to manage an OF team - but you are also responsible for setting the tone and perception of such a important institution.

No way can he be compared to Jock Stein, Martin O'Neil or Gordon Strachan - they served their apprenticeships and maintained a professional outlook that was supportive of Celtic FC to the outside world - they did OT resort to personal islets or hide behind non existent conspiracy theories to paper over their personal or teams shortcomings.

Neil Lennon already has 3 outstanding charge pending for comments made about referees - Every outburst undoes every god deed and just erodes the stature of a club that won many games against the odds.

Posted by dave f on 04/16/2012

One refereeing decision doesn't change the game? Quite clearly it did. If its not personal then morris is clearly not fit to referee matches, as he can't get major decisions right. Regan said as recently as last week that he released a referee for poor performances. Time for another? Also when we have ex referees in speaking in lodge meetings lauging about how Celtic never won a derby match they refed, what are we supposed to think of them? Lennon will be up in front of sfa and punished (in a grossly ott manner as per), but where is the accountability for referees?

Posted by Andrew Kerins on 04/16/2012

What a load of garbage! How would you know whether it's personal or anything else? What makes you the expert on what goes on in the SFA or in referees mind? Strange how in all of the big games you mention there has been a big decision(s) against Celtic! The worst part of the garbage you have written is the mention of '96 people who never came home from a football match'. Pathetic! What has that got to do with Neil Lennon and him sticking up for his club after all the honest mistakes? Are you angling for a job with the Daily Record or The Sun? If you keep writing garbage like this you'll fit in just nicely! Celtic fan? Aye right?

Posted by Auldheid on 04/16/2012

Maybe Neil Lennon has cause to feel its personal.

Refs are human you know, the problem Neil Lennon has is proving what he thinks but when Celtic do not turn in Killie destroying performances referee decisions have made a difference to the result.
Does that mean his team need to play at that level every game to make sure it is not at risk.
Does any other team have to play at such a consistently high level? In the 3 games in question the refs influenced the result with decisions that had they gone the other way no one would have been crying for their heads.
So maybe the tipping factor is human nature and just because refs are unaccountable does not mean they are above being spiteful.

Posted by Philip breen on 04/16/2012

Disgrace to rake up the dead To make what was a very good point

Posted by Steveo on 04/16/2012

Yeah Andy do have to agree with you. Ki, & I think he's a great player, missed2 absolute sitters. Ultimately though it was never a penalty in a year of penalties, I don't mind these decisions being given but there has to be consistency & I do not think that decision would have been given against any other team, especially Rangers.
But your correct Lenny needs to sit down & have cold hard look at himself, sort out the centre halfs & sort out a decent goal scoring forward.
I think you may have left yourself open to a load of abuse though, good luck with that!!

Posted by Lord of Seatoun on 04/16/2012

Two dubious penalty decisions in two successive big Cup matches late on in the game, surely that can't be coincidental? Lenny has irked the heirarchy sicne he came in, and rightly so, because the Blazer Brigade needed a kick up the nethers. They don't like him, he doesn't like them, so that kind of attitude can only filter downwards.
Neverthless, I am concerned about Celtic's big match temperament in crucial games. Against Killie we were nowhere at the races, against Administration FC in last year's League Cup, Celtic were bullied into submission .. and so it goes on: Ross County, Inverness Caley etc. Lennon is the best manager for Celtic but I hope that this season will make him and the management team realise that the team is far from the finished article.

Posted by Brian mc Vay on 04/16/2012

Once again it is everybody else to blame never him. Celtic are a great club but this man will but it in the gutter it is time for the Celtic board to get rid of him. He is a disgrace to Celtic and Scotland every time Celtic get beat he blames the ref

Posted by Brian mc Vay on 04/16/2012

Once again it is everybody else to blame never him. Celtic are a great club but this man will but it in the gutter it is time for the Celtic board to get rid of him. He is a disgrace to Celtic and Scotland every time Celtic get beat he blames the ref

Posted by Hoffman on 04/16/2012

Don't see what invoking the tragedy of those Liverpool deaths brings to your argument?

The standard of refereeing in Scotland has consistently been under fire and it has consistently shown itself to be sub-par. Lennon began battling the referees over their poorly called games last season. If you recall - at that time a referee resigned after it came to light that he lied in a post-match report in order to cover his shoddy decision-making. I have great doubt that such incidents were isolated. Ever since then the referees and Lennon have been butting heads.

If you were him you could see the amount of odd decisions piling up against your club and begin to wonder. Its not only a poor penalty decision this last game where the referee couldn't correctly identify who the ball hit (the ball hit Joe Ledley and the ref said it hit a very tall, very black Vic Wanyama), but also the missed clear penalty in our prior Cup semifinal and a many other decisions that were beyond small mistakes.

Posted by Mark on 04/16/2012

Bad attitude with a big budget. He's making Celtic a laughing stock with his antics & comments like "it's personal". Neil's done well coming in and doing what he has done but time for the board to look at appointing someone else who won't look elsewhere to cover his own failings. I know many of my fellow CFC fans will disagree but with RFC on their knees we've won a league title. What else? Utrecht, Kilmarnock, Hearts, Rangers a couple of weeks back and earlier in season to name a few games that according to Neil we've been cheated! Wake up and smell coffee. He deserved the support for everything that's happened outwith the game but his antics are now wearing thin and he's out his depth against a manager who knows his tactics - Paulo Sergio.

Posted by dirtbomb on 04/16/2012

always cheated, never defeated.the celtic way. bottled it. the ball hit webster's hip and hooper way offside, anyway. someone shut this muppet up.

Posted by Sean on 04/16/2012

There are two separate issues involved. First, Celtic just weren't good enough. Lennon's side has certainly lost the fire in the belly that created the great run, and its focus once the League was decided. Lennon's top priority should be cleaning that up.

That said, the officiating on Sunday was nothing short of appalling. Ian Black should've been sent off much earlier for his intentional handball, which took place after he had already been booked. What's more, Norris's penalty decision, he said, was a result of Wanyama handling the ball, which clearly did not happen.

Neither Lennon's nor Norris's inexcusable performances should be ignored.

Posted by Keio on 04/16/2012

Very well written, Andy. I almost feel like Lenny is using his popularity among fans to his advantage, as his referee/SFA baiting ways have largely papered over the fact that we've bottled away both of our appearances at Hampden this season. It's become too easy for him (and the squad, really) to come up with excuses and blame anyone but themselves for the poor play, and that's extended down to the fans, too. It also doesn't help that a lot of our fans are basically condoning Lenny's behavior and passing it off as "airing out his grievances, and rightly so." Again, it's all down to his immense popularity, the whole lapdog mentality among the section of our fans, and it's not doing the club or the rest of us any favors.

Posted by john on 04/16/2012

I see many people keep mentioning the two penalty incidents. I'll admit the one given against Celtic was harsh, but the one turned down didn't even hit his hand so stop claiming for nothing.

And I don't see anyone mentioning about Hooper being offside and scoring? You know why? Because it was in your favour. Everytime Celtic lose, it's everyone elses fault and never theirs, grow up and accept defeat. You lost, deal with it and stop making up excuses and non-existent and idiotic conspiracies.

Posted by William on 04/17/2012


Posted by Randolf Scott on 04/17/2012

I am a Celtic fan and follow the SPL from Australia and have noticed the drop in Celtic's results since Rangers went into administration. That is to be expected to some degree. In terms of Neil Lennon's reactions of late, he needs to study the great managers and how they have handled similar situations. Lennon wears his heart on his sleeve, but sometimes it is best to bite one's lip and take a deep breath when things go against you, fairly or not. I might get whacked for this but I think Walter Smith carried himself admirably during his career. I was always impressed with his demeanour on the sideline at Rangers and Everton. For Neil Lennon to secure a long term career as a Manager he needs to work on his emotional control. Otherwise, he has done a great job with Celtic this season.

Posted by Keio on 04/17/2012

Lol, a predictable round of excuses, rationalization, and outright delusion from the very elements of the Celtic support that Andy brought up. I really thought Lenny would tone down his antics a bit after the events of last year, but no; he just ratchets it up on a notch and even takes to social media to make his grievances known. Of course the fans are going to lap it up! Either way, he needs a talking into, and a change in attitudes as well, whether his biggest fans like it or not. Stop blaming everyone but yourself when things don't go your way; wasn't it Jock Stein who said "If you're good enough, the referee doesn't matter"?

Posted by prairiebhoy on 04/20/2012

In the three losses (Killie, Rangers and Hearts) Celtic let the momentum get taken from them. Goals were scored by teams that put Celtic on their back feet. I want to hear Neil discuss why the defense has been so woefully out of position for goals by Rangers and Hearts. Why have so much possession in the first half against Hearts but only try and bomb in crosses from outside 20 yards?

Neil can't gloss over team failuresjust to talk about obvious ref ones. If Ki does his job, Celtic have two goals. If Celtic set up shots in the first half, they likely could have scored with as much of the ball as they had.

Neil made no adjustments, Sergio did. Many times in sports, the games are won at halftime based on who made beter adjustments.

Score more goals Niel and you won't have to hope on ref calls

Posted by shuggie on 04/21/2012

I decided to let the fuss die down before i posted my own thoughts on this topic.

To me Neil is indeed a passionate man, but he indulges himself and lets his passion get out of hand.

There was only one man to blame for the hearts defeat and that was neil,end of. The manager has to take the blame as well as the praise. As for the refs making it "personal" that is as outragious as it is ludicrous.

Neil has to grow up, and act with some dignity, no one is aking him to show no passion, no emotion, however there is a time and place....

My own opinion of Neil as a manager is undecided, sure we had a great run,(with no complaints about refs) even when we had the advantage of dodgy decisions. but we keep loosing big games....And I think you have to gauge both the motivational and tactical skills of a manager in big games...... So far neil has been found wanting.

  Post your comment
Email Address:
characters left