Celtic’s interim manager, Neil Lennon, last night claimed that Rangers’ Steven Gerrard is in no position to criticise the behaviour of opposing teams and players.
Rangers had Alfredo Morelos sent off for elbowing Scott Brown during the first half of their 2-1 defeat at Parkhead on Sunday. Defender Andy Halliday was shown a red card after the final whistle and winger Ryan Kent has been banned retrospectively for two matches for lashing out at Brown in an incident missed by referee Bobby Madden.
In addition, Gerrard will be banned from the touchline for tomorrow’s visit to Motherwell as a result of comments made to Madden.
The Rangers manager claimed that Brown deserved to be punished for “provoking” all three of offenders and that Lennon and his No 2, John Kennedy, had been “playing the victim card,” a remark which infuriated the Celtic manager, who revealed that his rival had not come to his office for the traditional post-match drink last weekend.
“As you know, I’ve a lot of respect for Steven but I haven’t agreed with anything he’s said this week other than that we’re the best team in the country,” Lennon said. “It was the only semblance of rationality I picked up from his comments.
“He needs to look after his own business. What Steven should be talking about is the lack of discipline in his team, the lack of discipline his players showed and their lack of respect for the game, not bringing myself and John into it.”
On learning that Rangers possess the poorest disciplinary record in the Premiership, Lennon quipped: “There’s a shock! We’re just calling it as we see it. He has no right to use that inflammatory sort of language. I’m not happy about that; it’s there in black and white.
“It sounds to me like someone is winding Steven up from the back. I’ve been attacked on the street so I’ve been the victim of assault. I’ve been the victim of people sending suspicious packages and throwing coins and I was assaulted inside a stadium. Apart from that…
“People say I bring it on myself. That’s their mentality and I feel sorry for those people.”
Lennon also revealed that, should he be available, Brown will play in the final match against Rangers at Ibrox next month and admitted that he couldn’t believe that Rangers contested Kent’s ban.
“Was I surprised Rangers appealed it? Yes, 100 per cent,” he said. “It was so blatant and my surprise is that he only got two games and not three.
“It’s violent conduct and you just can’t do that. And, again, Scott Brown is cast as be provocateur in this… and he wasn’t at all.”
Lennon rejected suggestions that Brown’s celebrations in front of the Rangers supporters might have played a part in provoking violent incidents in the city centre and elsewhere later that night.
“There is no common sense in that,” he said. “It’s an isolated incident and an attempt to apportion blame on an innocent party and to mix it in with other aggressive incidents.
“They [Rangers] have to find a scapegoat to vent their frustration at the defeat or their feeling of grievance about what happened. You can’t behave the way they behave.
“It’s very reminiscent to the incident with myself and Ally McCoist in 2011. On that night Rangers had three players sent off and that was lost in all of the kerfuffle about Coisty and myself.
“The same thing has happened again, three players sent off and Scott Brown is being blamed, which is absolute nonsense.
“You can’t blame players for what goes on in the homes of people. I’m sorry but players are human beings. It can get emotional and they react in a split second while they are playing football, be that acting aggressively or making a tackle or using an elbow.
“But they can’t think about what goes on four hours later at someone’s house. Those people are responsible for their own actions. I find it very, very strange to blame sportsmen for what goes on outside arenas.”