‘Positive’ Neil Lennon labels Regan’s prophecy of doom as unhelpful

NEIL LENNON has criticised SFA chief executive Stewart Regan’s doom-laden comments on the future of Scottish football without Rangers, claiming they could hamper his attempts to recruit new players to Celtic.

Following the SPL’s decision on Wednesday to refuse newco Rangers admission to the top flight, Regan issued a dire warning of the game in this country suffering a “slow, lingering death” if the Ibrox club were banished to the Third Division. He also suggested there would be “social unrest” in Scotland in the event of Rangers’ demise.

Celtic manager Lennon, while describing the chain of events which have unfolded at Rangers over the past year as “disastrous”, says Regan’s observations are to the detriment of his own efforts to champion Scottish football in spite of its ongoing difficulties.

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“Comments like those don’t help,” said Lennon. “We’ve not had a problem with persuading players to come here so far. I think our reputation is good, we are a big club and can offer Champions League football which is a huge attraction. Obviously, the fact there is no Rangers in the SPL takes the shine off, but people come here to play for the club and not just in four games against Rangers a season.

“Certainly, the state of the game here is a far cry from when I first walked in the door at Celtic in 2000 and it was thriving. But I can’t put a negative slant on it, because everyone else seems to be doing that. You’ve got to talk the game up sometimes. It might be easier for me to do that in my position, but I have always tried to maintain a positive outlook on the game.

“For the long term good of the game, we can’t have what has been happening over the last year happening again. It’s been disastrous really, not just for Scottish football but for a huge amount of supporters who follow Rangers. They are the ones who have suffered the most.

“You are now asking if Scottish football can survive without Rangers in the SPL and I’m hoping the answer will be yes. You are hoping that it gives other clubs, who would have felt they wouldn’t have had a prayer of making the top two, the motivation to take up the baton. The chairmen voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday and each individual club had their own reasons for that, so they must have an eye on progressing.”

Lennon also expressed his dismay at the manner in which the Rangers crisis has been dealt with by the Scottish football authorities, with the future of the Ibrox club still uncertain ahead of next Friday’s Scottish Football League vote on admitting the newco.

“It could have been handled a lot better and a lot quicker,” said Lennon. “It seems to have dragged its feet for a long, long time and it’s still doing that. Clubs are trying to prepare for the season and they can’t do so properly because they don’t know what division Rangers are going to be in.”