Neil Lennon reveals two more Celtic players broke Covid rules during ill-fated pandemic season

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon revealed two other players broke cross-border travel restrictions at the same time as Boli Bolingoli as he stressed the huge impact the pandemic had on his final season at Parkhead.

The Hoops had two matches postponed on the orders of the Scottish Government in August 2020 after it emerged that Belgian defender Bolingoli had flown to Spain and back without telling anyone before playing against Kilmarnock several days later.

The furore set the tone for a difficult season which saw Celtic fall short of their quest for a record 10th consecutive title and miss out on any silverware, although they clinched the treble with victory over Hearts in the previous season’s delayed Scottish Cup final.

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Lennon told PLZ Soccer: “We followed the protocols to an nth degree: five different dressing rooms at the training ground then the players had to go home and stay in.

Neil Lennon insists Celtic faced major difficulties during the Covid pandemic. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Neil Lennon insists Celtic faced major difficulties during the Covid pandemic. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Neil Lennon insists Celtic faced major difficulties during the Covid pandemic. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

“You had the Bolingoli incident at the start of the season. We said ‘don’t leave Glasgow’ and he gets on a flight to Spain for a day. And then he comes back and says ‘I didn’t go to Spain, I went to Belgium’. He said ‘I went to Andorra and then I drove over the border to Belgium to see my family’.

“And then two hours later he rings me and says ‘actually, I went to Marbella for the day’.

“And then I had a meeting with the players. ‘Did anyone else leave Glasgow?’ No. And then later on I get two phone calls from players, I’m not going to say who. ‘Gaffer, I was in Amsterdam’. ‘I was in Manchester’. I was like ‘guys, come on’.

“When you look back on it, it was really difficult for them. They missed their families, there were no restaurants, there was no social interaction. They broke the rules and I get it now.”

Celtic also came under criticism for embarking on a mid-season trip to Dubai which resulted in Lennon and 15 players being told to self-isolate.

He resigned in February 2021 but remarked that Celtic’s form returned when crowds came back.

“It was just such a difficult, surreal experience going through the pandemic,” he said. “It was totally different.

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“If you look at the main leagues: PSG didn’t win the title; Madrid or Barcelona didn’t win the title; Liverpool, who had won the title the year before by 30-odd points, scraped into fourth place during Covid; Juventus, who were going for nine or 10 in a row, didn’t win the title.

“We weren’t exclusive to this, it affected a lot of the major clubs.

“For me the big thing was no supporters and the players’ way of life was totally different from what they were used to and there was a lot of Covid anxiety among them, a lot of them were worried about their families at home.

“I know Rangers went through the season unbeaten and they had seemingly no problems but it was nothing to do with football. It was more psychological and a totally abnormal sense of living.

“There was also a lot of unhappiness because the plan was for some of those players to go, and they couldn’t go because nobody had any money because there were no crowds.

“We got a few offers from clubs that were half the price of the players. I think they were disappointed and frustrated that they couldn’t go so some of their actions were not of the standards they were before.”



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