Neil Lennon backs Craig Levein over ‘crass, unfair’ criticism

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes Craig Levein has come in for unfair criticism after Scotland dropped four points in their opening two 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

A goalless draw against Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Macedonia, both at Hampden, have left the Scots two points behind Serbia, Belgium and Croatia at the top of Group A and manager Levein is under severe pressure going into the double-header away to Wales and Belgium next month.

However, Lennon leaped to his defence, claiming personal agendas are driving some of his critics.

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“I feel for him,” said the Celtic manager “But he is big enough and strong enough and he is trying to do the right thing and play the right way. Some of these people take personal issues and make it public through a newspaper and that’s not the right place or time to do that. Some of the stuff I read was pretty crass, way off the mark and uneducated and some of it is having a go for the sake of having a go.

“It is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. I think we fly off the handle very quickly. Ideally you want to win your home games but that can be rectified pretty quickly if you pick up points away from home, so Scotland are far from out of the group. Sometimes players need to hold their hands up and say ‘I didn’t do as well as I should have done there’.

“On reflection of both the games, the players can play better, but it is far too early to say they are not going to qualify.”

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall is optimistic that Scotland can turn the atmosphere around next month. The former Scotland midfielder, who played in three major finals for his country, said: “People forget, when we qualified we did it by goal difference and the odd point. There is such a thin line. We haven’t had a great start to the campaign, but we have to look forward to the double header against Wales and Belgium and come out fighting.”