NEIL Lennon has once again expressed his dismay that more wasn’t done to punish the fan who attacked the former Celtic manager at Tynecastle in 2011.
The incident took place in a league game between the two sides. John Wilson, a Hearts supporter, jumped over the barrier and attacked Lennon, who was standing at the edge of the pitch beside the Celtic dugout.
The attack took place in front of live TV cameras but despite this, and Wilson admitting to it, a jury returned a verdict of not proven for assault.
The prosecution had pushed for the crime of assault aggravated by religious prejudice. Wilson’s defence team offered a guilty plea if the allegation of making a sectarian remark was deleted from the assault charge, but the Crown rejected this.
Wilson was later found guilty of breach of the peace, after the jury deleted the sectarian remark reference, but was released having already served more than half his eight month sentence.
Lennon admits the prosecution could have made an error in pursuing the more serious crime, but is still unhappy that Wilson got off lightly.
Speaking to the author of Celtic: Keeping The Faith, Lennon said: “From what I was told, the prosecution made a boo-boo – they charged him with assault and charged him with a sectarian attack aggravated by racial and religious prejudice and the evidence was that there was no evidence of a sectarian attack.
“Basically the four months he was inside – they felt that was enough. But the whole world saw what happened
“It wasn’t the first time, I remember looking at the death threat story [before a Northern Ireland match against Cyprus] on the news and thinking are they actually talking about me. It’s a bit surreal. So after the attack at Tynecastle I thought: “there’s going to be an outcry, there’s got to be something done now.” Was there enough done? No, I don’t think there was.”
Lennon had come to expect hatred while he at Celtic, both as player and manager.
The now Bolton Wanderers boss feels people either didn’t take the threats towards him seriously enough, or worse, blamed him for their occurring.
He continued: “Did I feel let down? Yes, as a player and manager I felt let down by certain quarters of the media. Could they have done more about it? It seemed to get to the point where the attitude was: “It’s Neil Lennon; he brings it on himself, all that kind of crap.
“When I was sent bullets in the post, you then had this “he brings it on himself” attitude in the press and that I was an aggressive type. But Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn got bullets in the post too.
“So what was the reason behind it? We know what the reason was, we were Irish Catholics working for Celtic and playing for Northern Ireland. Everyone refers to Scotland’s Shame but not a lot of people did a lot about it.”
• Extract taken from Celtic: Keeping the Faith