CELTIC manager Neil Lennon has vowed to vigorously defend himself after the Scottish Football Association instigated disciplinary action over an alleged outburst against St Mirren captain Jim Goodwin.
The Celtic manager could not mask his dismay at being accused of misconduct after the microphone positioned next to the away dug-out at St Mirren Park picked up his outburst following Goodwin’s tackle on substitute Dylan McGeouch during Sunday’s Scottish Premier League clash.
Although he did not say so in so many words, Lennon is clearly of the view that there is a connection between this charge and his post-match criticism of referee Bobby Madden, whom he accused of making several erroneous calls during the 1-1 draw.
Surprisingly, Lennon, who already has a suspended sentence hanging over him from last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final, escaped censure for describing the referee’s performance as the worst he had seen “for a long, long time”, and was instead hit by a notice of complaint from Vincent Lunny, the SFA compliance officer, for swearing.
“I think Vincent feels obliged to make this charge,” said Lennon. “I will defend it as vigorously as I can.”
Although the swearing was clearly heard on television, it is understood that Sky, the television company that broadcast the game, received only two complaints from viewers. Neither the match official report nor the fourth official report contained reference to the swearing, which came after Lennon had accused Goodwin of thinking he was a “hard man”.
Lennon is also unhappy at being “done by trial by TV”. He made the point that microphones are not present by the dug-outs at every match. Being a manager of Celtic means that Lennon is bound to be under greater scrutiny than other managers, since his side’s games are routinely featured on live television.
“Without prejudicing my case, that may be part of my case,” he said. “There is industrial language used everywhere in football. We are not children. We are at the highest level of the SPL and it goes on all the time, whether that be on the pitch, in the dug-outs or in the crowd.
“I don’t want to say too much because I can’t, but I will defend my case as strongly as I can,” he added.
Asked whether he would appeal to Sky to move their microphones from the dug-out area in future, he said: “Possibly – it puts you at a distinct disadvantage to everyone else.”
Although he admitted that managers “do have a responsibility,” he felt that the patrolling of the dug-out area should be left to the fourth official. “That is what he is there for,” he added. “What goes on there should remain there. If he feels there is anything untoward or beyond the call of appropriate behaviour then he should make that call. I’m being done by trial by TV.
“There should be a string of managers, a string of players and they should evict people out of the crowd,” he added. “People say we should set an example to kids, but the example should start in the home.
“I can’t legislate for something I have said during the course of a game being broadcast live on TV and then me getting dragged up for it,” he added. “If the SFA hasn’t made a point of this then it would have been forgotten about very quickly. What it is doing is highlighting something very trivial.
“I think there are more problems in the game than a bit of banter between two people.”
On the subject of Goodwin, Lennon revealed that there were no hard feelings between him and his old Celtic team mate. Away from the blood and thunder of an SPL fixture, Lennon has a healthy respect for the St Mirren defender.
“He’s done really well,” he said. “It didn’t work out for him at Celtic and he’s gone down the road and had a really good career. He’s come back to Scotland and he’s captained St Mirren to a League Cup win. He’s a good pro and a really good player and I’ve a lot of time for him.”