Neil Lennon warns Celtic players that they can’t have a social life or a normal life

Aberdeen situation threatens to derail the league, warns Parkhead manager

Aberdeen’s trip to face St Johnstone was postponed following two positive Covid-19 tests for Dons players. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Aberdeen’s trip to face St Johnstone was postponed following two positive Covid-19 tests for Dons players. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes professional footballers have a duty to be “standard bearers” for the rest of Scotland in adhering to the government’s Covid-19 guidelines.

Lennon was reacting to the postponement of Aberdeen’s Premiership fixture at St Johnstone today after two of the Pittodrie club’s players tested positive for coronavirus with another six self-isolating after visiting a city centre bar following their defeat at home to Rangers on the opening day of the season last Saturday.

It prompted angry criticism from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of what was a breach of the ‘Return to Play’ protocols agreed between her government, the Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League to allow the 2020-21 top flight season to commence behind closed doors.

Celtic mananger Neil Lennon. Picture: Andrew Milligan/Getty Images

Lennon has reminded his own players of their responsibilities, warning them they simply cannot expect to have a social life in the current circumstances.

“It’s a very unfortunate incident and one that could set us back as a league,” said Lennon. “We’ve had a chat with our players again just to remind them of what they can and can’t do. The First Minister has come out and been very strong on this and I believe the government is also going to speak to the managers and captains of each club to remind us of our responsibilities.

“Probably the [Aberdeen] players weren’t thinking of those things at the time. A lot of people will point fingers at them and it’s a lesson learned, certainly for everyone associated with the game.

“We can’t risk it anymore. We can’t have a social life or a normal life, we have to be standard bearers for the rest of the country now in terms of coping with this as best as we possibly can. This shows not just how fragile the season could be, but life in general. Aberdeen is back in lockdown and we just have to be careful that we don’t go back to a complete shutdown as well. It’s a fine balancing act.

“Aberdeen will probably come under a bit of criticism as a club but the players have made a mistake and now one of them has tested positive for the virus and I hope he recovers really well but it’s a lesson for everyone.”

The SPFL have stated Aberdeen’s next two matches, at home to Hamilton on Wednesday and then against Celtic in Glasgow next Saturday, are still scheduled to go ahead as planned.

“A postponement would be the last thing we need because the fixture list is congested enough as it is but it’s a fine balancing act,” added Lennon.

“We’ve told our players and staff that, from now on, it’s the training ground, home and games for them - and that’s the way it has to be. We’ve come so far and everyone has worked so hard behind the scenes - the medical people and government people - to get the game up and running.

“It would be such a shame and really sore if we had to close it down again so we really have to be on our guard from now on, at least in the short term.

“I think the First Minister has come out in the strongest possible sense and put that message out there that we can’t have any more slip-ups.”

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