Strachan: Neil Lennon’s coin incident wasn’t sectarianism, it was morons

Former Celtic manager addresses recent spate of crowd trouble in Scottish football, calling for the perpetrators to be named and shamed…


The incidents that Neil Lennon experienced in Scotland years ago, when he was at Celtic, it’s official that some of that stuff was sectarianism. People went to jail.

Neil’s one of my best friends but, the incident we saw recently, I don’t think it’s the same. Coin throwing didn’t just happen to him at Tynecastle, it has happened to others at Livingston and St Mirren. No one specifically is being targeted.

You cannot put the coin throwing down to Sectarianism, you put it down to morons.

Neil is a lovely man, a right good laugh. But we change, sometimes into people we don’t like at games.

My tongue used to be my weapon because I was too small to kick anyone – I used to say things and go ‘oh dear’ and have to apologise after the game.

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At a football match, the worst comes out in people. Educated people go into grounds and turn into maniacs when the game starts, they go bonkers as soon as that whistle goes.

People often tell me they want to experience a game in Scotland and I say ‘you’ll love the noise and the colour, but you’ll be hugely disappointed by what you see and hear’. It can be nasty.

But, it’s not new. I went to a game in the 60s and somebody threw dart that got stuck in my mate’s head, and coins were probably bigger back then.

While I was punched in the side of the head during a game in the 80s, there was just no coverage then, so nobody saw it – although Alex McLeish still sends me photos of it now, he thinks it’s hilarious.

Yobbish behaviour isn’t new.

Name and shame

What is new, though, is the equipment to see this yobbish behaviour, and stop it.

We have all these cameras, why don’t we zoom in on disgusting behaviour, and shame the people doing it? Is this you? Or your dad, son, brother, employee, employer?

Put them in the papers and on the screen, and make people think twice before they act like idiots – because they know their family or boss might see them. That would scare them.

It’s hard asking Neil to change without asking everyone else to, too. I know we have a standard to look at as managers, and Neil might be thinking how he can help the situation himself.

When you’re interviewed right after the game, you’re still on an adrenaline high. Sometimes you have to take a few days, sit back, and see what you think.

I’m always here for Neil, he only needs to pick up the phone, and he often does – at some strange times, by the way.

He’s one of those guys that seems to stroll through chaos, it never seems to bother him. It just seems to be hand-in-hand for his journey in life.

Bu,t he’s completely different when you meet him to what you see on the sideline, he’s a wonderful, wonderful man.

McGregor conducting Celtic return

The so-called ‘Celtic crisis’ ended at half-time of the semi-final against Hearts, when Brendan Rodgers moved Callum McGregor into the sitting midfield role.

He’s a technically wonderful player who sets a good rhythm for the way Celtic play after he touches it. Like a good conductor, he gives them a flow. And in the two-and-a-half games since that change, they’ve scored 13 times, and look like the old Celtic again.

They were still odds-on to win the title before that game, but they’ll be even more so now – they’re settled again after the Boyata thing in the summer, and now it’s onwards and upwards.

Brendan got a lot of criticism, but he’s got a great job.

Managing Celtic is wonderful, you go in and train with great players every day. If I could choose what to do for the rest of my life, I’d go into the Man City training ground, pull up a chair, with a cup of tea, and watch them train.

That’d be heaven for me, and that’s basically what Brendan’s job is right now. He never looks flustered, he looks like he’s been doing this all his life.

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