Neil Lennon: Sectarian abuse triggered Celtic exit

Lennon was worn-down by the "chaos". Picture: Jane Barlow

Lennon was worn-down by the "chaos". Picture: Jane Barlow

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NEIL Lennon has revealed how sectarian “chaos and madness” left him exhausted and influenced his decision to quit Celtic.

The former Parkhead boss said he was worn down by a ­series of high-profile off-field incidents during his 11 years as player and manager at the ­Glasgow club.

During his time in Scotland, he was attacked by a Hearts fan at a game at Tynecastle and assaulted while out in the West End of Glasgow.

Lennon, 43, was also sent bullets in the post and suffered a number of death threats.

He stood down in the summer and has taken up a new role as manager of English Championship side Bolton Wanderers.

In an interview, he said: “I don’t want to paint a bad picture because it’s fantastic up there from a football point of view. But it does wear you down in the end.

“Maybe it was the chaos and the madness catching up with me, but I just felt desperately tired. When I was younger, I was able to have the energy and courage to get through it.

“When I was getting bullets through the post and all that, I had good people of intelligence in the background who were looking after me. But in the end I was exhausted emotionally.

“It all caught up with me. I needed a change of scenery. Did it change me as a person? Not really, no.

“Did it have an effect on me? I think at times it did. Now I’m out of it, do I miss the intensity? Sometimes, yes. We live off that.

“But I am loving what I am doing now. I can concentrate on the management and the football rather than the other stuff.”

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Lennon replaced Tony Mowbray at Parkhead in 2010 and as well as leading the club to three successive Scottish Premiership successes, he has also helped Celtic claim two Scottish Cup wins and masterminded their run to the last 16 of last season’s Champions League.

In his new role at Bolton, he has won four of his first six games and admits it’s a “whole new challenge” for him.

The former midfielder accepts he was “no angel” at Celtic but insisted he didn’t deserve the vitriol and has told of his anger that people in Scotland refuse to accept the abuse he was getting was sectarian in nature.

He said: “At times I didn’t do myself any favours. But did I get a fair crack of the whip? No.

“Some of what was said about the difficulties I had was irresponsible. I found it personal. People wouldn’t come out and say my treatment was sectarian.

“They said I brought it on myself. They hid behind that ­because they didn’t want to admit it. But it was sectarian in the stadiums.

“People say, ‘He brings it on himself… he is an aggressive manager’. But so are some other managers. So are some players. I was high-profile, I came for a lot of money as a player. For me, my job was being part of Martin O’Neill’s team and to break the Rangers monopoly. We did that.

“Nobody else had to go through situations and circumstances like I have been through. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through it. You would hope that all the nonsense that ­happened to me would serve as a watershed.

“The anticipation and the ­rivalry in Glasgow will probably never tire. There is part of me that misses it but a bigger part of me that doesn’t.”

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