In the Celtic manager’s beef-fest of a press conference – during which he railed against all and sundry for how it had been presented his squad behaved on their ill-fated winter training camp in Dubai and the club’s motivations for the trip – a major gripe centred on the fact a total of 13 players and three members of staff, including the Irishman and his assistant John Kennedy, were required to isolate for ten days following Christopher Jullien’s positive case.
All were deemed close contacts of the Frenchman – in terms of their proximity to him both on flights and airport bus transfers. On the latter, Lennon insisted the measures imposed on Celtic post-Dubai mean clubs should be hiring 10 buses to ferry 30-strong travelling parties to away games.
“On the plane, it was the guys that were closest [that were adjudged contacts],” said Lennon, who confirmed one of the isolating players had tested positive for the virus ahead of Wednesday’s assignment in Livingston for which all other contact absentees would return. “So all of a sudden it was two rows back, two rows forward, two rows to the side. We were under the impression that with business class seats the distance from two seats back was pretty safe.
“And some lads had to isolate because they were on buses with Christopher. This is where I’m confused. Because all clubs in Scotland have been travelling up and down the country in two buses. With these guidelines now that we are having to adhere to, it means that only three players can travel on a 52-seater bus. So when we played Hibs last Monday we had to bus six players on two 52-seater buses. So that would mean every club in the country with a say, you know, 30 people, would have to take 10 buses.
“So for me, the goalposts are completely moved. And in terms of physical distancing we have been in dressing rooms throughout the country – Hamilton on Boxing Day, St Johnstone – where there is no physical distancing. There is no room, we are cramped up, 15-20 people in the one room. And now, all of sudden, we adhere to all protocols – after having taken photographs, adhered to every rule in place – and we have 13 players, and three staff isolating for ten days that, apart from one, are all negative. It is absolutely preposterous.”
Lennon made many valid points about the grey areas that have emerged in how Celtic have been treated for Jullien’s positive test. Amid over the top suggestions that the excursion was a “jolly” – over which he lambasted Sky pundit Andy Walker – and responsible for the lower leagues being closed down, the 49-year-old failed to recognise what was unpalatable for most sensible observers was not the nature of the jaunt, but the very fact Celtic, and their manager, considered it a wise while a global pandemic was spinning out of control once more. In coming out fighting days after his chief executive had apologised for this poor judgement call, Lennon has merely succeeded in giving oxygen to an issue that has asphyxiated his club for a fortnight.