'Flummoxed' Celtic boss Neil Lennon makes 'pressure from public' query over SFA case

The not proven verdict on appeal over the two-game ban given to Albian Ajeti for simulation being delivered on the same day it was decided no action would be taken against Devante Cole for studding the chest of Ismaila Soro has laid bare serious discrepancies in the SFA disciplinary system, believes Neil Lennon.

Celtic's Albian Ajeti goes down after contact from Kilmarnock keeper Colin Doyle in an incident that earned him a retrospective two-game ban for simulation from a panel of referees that an appeal has now ajudged was not proven. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Celtic's Albian Ajeti goes down after contact from Kilmarnock keeper Colin Doyle in an incident that earned him a retrospective two-game ban for simulation from a panel of referees that an appeal has now ajudged was not proven. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

The Celtic manager believes justice was served in setting aside the suspension for Ajeti following the striker being sanctioned for diving after going down under contact from Kilmarnock keeper Colin Doyle to win a penalty last Wednesday. However, he cannot fathom why Motherwell’s Cole avoided being cited for his high kick on Soro in Celtic’s win over the Lanarkshire men at the weekend.

And the Celtic manager has been left wondering if retrospective punishments – which are no longer the preserve of the compliance officer with the position currently vacant – are being initiated to deal with a clamour from some supporters. Lennon offered a “shouldn’t have” been in response to whether Celtic were placed in the spotlight following Rangers manager Steven Gerrard’s demand for “consistency” following the retrospective bans imposed on Alfredo Morelos recently.

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“Ajeti’s compared to Cole’s is night and day,” he said. “Listen, the last thing I look for is for players to be sent off and I’m not convinced it was serious foul play [from Cole] either. But compared to what Ajeti’s done, why it’s not being looked at is beyond me, even though I can understand where Motherwell are coming from on that as well. The collision with Cole and Soro did look a little bit dubious. So is there a case for it to be looked at? If it’s a yellow card then fine, let’s move on because I’ve seen worse this season. But I’m flummoxed by this one with Ajeti, I have to say and I don’t know if it came because of pressure from the public. I don’t know if it’s buckling under the complaints coming in or whatever. I certainly didn’t think he had a case to answer, but there you go.

“It was a strange one for me. We are sort of re-refereeing games now which, in essence, is the right thing to do. If there’s been some sort of foul play that the referee has missed then, yes, I think they should be punished or looked at. But this one for me was clearly innocuous. There is contact, the two of them are running at speed, they come together and Albian goes down. You’ve seen that many, many times, I don’t think he was trying to con the ref. I think he felt the contact and, like most strikers would do, he’s gone down. We don’t encourage diving, we don’t encourage simulation and this for me is unprecedented really because I was always of the opinion that, if there’s no contact then that’s simulation. But there clearly is contact there.

“So I don’t know where this charge came from and while I wouldn’t say I was confident of the outcome, in my own mind I was confident that there should have been no case to answer. I’d been unhappy if it had gone against us. I’d have felt aggrieved by that and so would the player.”

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