Devastated Neil Lennon is rooting for ‘brilliant boy’ Jackie McNamara
Lennon has remained close to McNamara since playing alongside him in the Martin O’Neill team fashioned across the early years of the millennium and finds it difficult to come to terms with the 46-year-old facing a fight for life after collapsing outside his York home on Saturday.
“I don’t know what to say, really,” said Lennon. “I spoke to him as recently as Tuesday at a development game. I’m just devastated by the news. I’m really hoping he pulls through. It’s come as a huge shock to everybody. He’s my friend, and he has been for 20 years.
“I know Sam [his wife] and the family very well. Him and Sid [Simon Donnelly, former Celtic team-mate] are so close, as we all were as a group under Martin for a long, long time, and still are. We’re just praying he pulls through.”
A spokeswoman for Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We can confirm Jackie McNamara was admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary on Sunday night and is currently being cared for in our Intensive Care Unit. He remains in a critical but stable condition.
“We are supporting both Jackie and his family, who request their privacy to be respected at this time.”
McNamara is the latest member of the Celtic squad from the O’Neill era to suffer serious health issues. Stiliyan Petrov, John Hartson and Alan Stubbs have all survived cancer, which claimed the life of Liam Miller, while Morten Wieghorst had to overcome a rare muscle-wasting disease.
“It just shows you,” Lennon said. “Your health’s your wealth at the end of the day. This has come out of nowhere and could happen to anybody. I just hope to God he comes through for us all.
“Jackie was hard as nails as a player. He was a tough tackler, consistent, versatile. He had a really bad injury but before then he was absolutely flying. He was an important team-mate and won player of the year awards here a couple of times. He was a top quality player and a pretty good manager, but more than that, he’s a brilliant boy.”