Neil Lennon has accused his former Old Firm foe Walter Smith of unnecessarily inflaming emotions ahead of today’s Scottish Cup semi-final between Rangers and Celtic.
The former Celtic manager rounded on Smith for dredging up events of four years ago when Rangers were liquidated and the club re-entered the league system in the fourth tier of Scottish football.
The former Ibrox manager said the “punishment” meted out at the time of liquidation was unnecessary and that Rangers would remain bitter about it and use it as motivation.
Lennon dismissed the remarks as “propaganda”. He said: “I think that is inflammatory and I think it is unnecessary in a week coming up to a game that has no relevance to what happened four years ago. It is not a fixture that needs more bitterness.
“Nobody has experienced more bitterness than myself, even before liquidation, so those sort of comments, I think, are unnecessary when we should be looking forward to the game and Rangers should be looking forward to being back in the top flight next season.
“The propaganda is starting already! It was four years ago and everyone is looking forward now,” added Lennon, questioning not only the wisdom of the outburst but the terminology.
“I don’t know if the term punishment is the right word. It would be ‘consequence’. Rangers got liquidated at the end of the day and the consequence was they went down to the bottom tier of Scottish football and started again. So they have done that now. It has maybe taken them a year longer than most people would have expected but now they can get on again.”
Some Celtic fans refuse to buy into the view that Rangers are returning, insisting that the phoenix that rose from the ashes is a new club and claiming that, if they were to triumph in today’s Scottish Cup semi-final and then go on to lift the trophy next month, it would count as their first in the competition. Lennon does not agree.
“Some people may see it as that but then you are getting to the extremes of being petty about the whole thing,” he said. “I wouldn’t see it like that, put it that way. I think players and fans would see it the same way. Some people with extreme views would see it the other way. People have their own opinions on it and they are entitled to them.”