Former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan does not believe the coin thrown at Neil Lennon in last week’s Edinburgh derby was an act necessarily motivated by sectarianism.
Writing in his column for Paddy Power, Strachan put the incident down to “morons” who need to be outed on TV and in the media for their “disgusting behaviour”.
The Hibs manager hit the deck in front of the dugouts during the 0-0 draw at Tynecastle after being struck on the jaw by a coin thrown from the main stand. This was one of many shameful incidents during the game, as Hearts keeper Zdenek Zlamal was also attacked as he went to retrieve the ball from fans in the away end. Graffiti reading ‘Hang Neil Lennon’ was also daubed on a wall near Tynecastle.
Lennon admitted after the game he didn’t know if the coin-throwing incident was sectarian-motivated or not – but did highlight the general “racist” abuse he has encountered in Scotland.
While Strachan is under no illusions as to the religious bigotry Lennon has faced throughout his time in Scottish society, he feels coin throwing at football games is part of a different problem.
He wrote: “The incidents that Neil Lennon experienced in Scotland years ago, when he was at Celtic, it’s official that some of that stuff was sectarianism. People went to jail.
“Neil’s one of my best friends but, the incident we saw recently, I don’t think it’s the same. Coin throwing didn’t just happen to him at Tynecastle, it happened to others as Livi and St Mirren. No one specifically is being targeted.
“You cannot put the coin throwing down to sectarianism, you put it down to morons.
“Neil is a lovely man, a right good laugh. But we change, sometimes into people we don’t like, at games. My tongue used to be my weapon because I was too small to kick anyone – I used to say things and go ‘oh dear’ and have to go and apologise after the game.
“At a football match, the worst comes out in people. Educated people go into grounds and turn into maniacs when the game starts, they go bonkers as soon as that whistle goes. People often tell me they want to experience a game in Scotland and I say ‘you’ll love the noise and the colour, but you’ll be hugely disappointed by what you see and hear’. It can be nasty.
“But it’s not new. I went to game in the 60s and somebody threw dart that got stuck in my mate’s head. And coins were probably bigger back then. While I was punched in the side of the head during a game in the 80s, there was just no coverage then, so nobody saw it – although Alex McLeish still sends me photos of it now, he thinks it’s hilarious. So yobbish behaviour isn’t new.”
He added: “It’s hard asking Neil to change without asking everyone else to, too. I know we have a standard to look at as managers, and Neil might be thinking how he can help the situation himself. When you’re interviewed right after the game, you’re still on an adrenaline high. Sometimes you have to take a few days, sit back, and see what you think.”
Strachan, who grew up a Hibs fan, called on TV companies, newspapers and authorities to use the advancement in technology to help identify and shame the culprits.
He wrote: “We have all these cameras, why don’t we zoom in on disgusting behaviour, and shame the people doing it? Is this you? Or your dad, son, brother, employee, employer? Put them in the papers and on the screen, and make people think twice before they act like idiots – because they know their family or boss might see them. That would scare them.”
• Gordon Strachan was speaking exclusively to Paddy Power News. To read more, visit news.paddypower.com