Neil Lennon insists he won’t be driven out of Scotland by the bigots

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Bruce White/SNS
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Bruce White/SNS
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Hibernian manager Neil Lennon says he will not be driven out of Scottish football by ignorance and intolerance.

But the Northern Irishman, who was hit with a coin during Wednesday night’s controversial capital derby, also insists that he is no longer willing to silently accept overt hooliganism or distasteful displays of what he describes as racism.

“People use football as an excuse, a vehicle for religious connotations, personal connotations, but it comes from the home. You see young people doing the same thing and I feel sorry for them if they think throwing things on a pitch is a badge of honour. It’s not. They will grow out of it eventually but it’s the original point of thought that’s the worry.

“I don’t think anyone wants it at their club. It gets laughed off but it’s always underlying and it manifests itself in big games sometimes and it can be toxic and poisonous and some people suffer it more than others and that’s not right. For me it’s racism.”

Throughout his time in Scotland he has been the focus of some toxic abuse. He has been assaulted in Glasgow and sent bullets in the post. On Wednesday night, as well as the coin incident, the words ‘Hang Neil Lennon’ were spray-painted on a wall near Tynecastle and the Irish Catholic says he has little doubt that most of the abuse is fuelled by bigotry.

“You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism. I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people have a sense of entitlement, or a superiority complex, and all I do is stand up for myself.”

He says the time has come to take a stand and while the nastiness infuriates him he stressed he will not be forced out a job he loves by the small-minded acts of idiots.

“I won’t be driven out. I’ll go on my own terms...or I might be sacked! That’s inevitable in this job. I love being at this club and working with the players. I love the way the team plays, developing the players and the challenge of winning games. You always want to keep bettering yourself and I don’t know anything else, and I don’t want to do anything else.

“In the main, Scotland is a great place with great people. But I don’t enjoy the portrayal of me as an individual by certain people, a lot of people who are totally blinkered to what they see or read or what the bias is in their objective points.

“If I walked away, where does it leave this country? How does that look for the Scottish game? But I am not doing this for Scottish football – I am doing this because it’s what I want to do.

“The point I make is that I had a career in England up until I was 29. I then had two years as Bolton manager and had none of this. I didn’t even have a suspension as a manager in England.”