SFA must ‘spell it out’ to managers, says Neil Lennon

The Celtic squad train ahead of today's tie with Arbroath. Picture: SNS
The Celtic squad train ahead of today's tie with Arbroath. Picture: SNS
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Neil Lennon has called on the Scottish Football Association’s compliance officer, Vincent Lunny, to “spell out the guidelines” for managers.

The Celtic manager was speaking after his Kilmarnock counterpart Kenny Shiels and St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas found themselves in hot water with the SFA this week.

Lomas was handed a six-match ban for his reaction towards referee Iain Brines over a decision during his side’s draw at Parkhead last month, with a suspended two-game punishment also invoked.

Lennon’s comments though, pertained more to Shiels, who was issued with two notices of complaint by Lunny, one of which was for allegedly breaching three disciplinary rules as a result of comments he made in a radio interview and newspaper articles following their defeat by Inverness on 3 November.

One of the accusations was that Shiels made comments that “impinge upon the character of a match official by suggesting that the match official may bear a grudge against you should you answer a question relating to decisions taken by him”. The Kilmarnock manager also faces a misconduct charge for being sent to the stand for dissent during last weekend’s defeat by St Johnstone.

Lennon, ahead of today’s 
William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at home to Irn-Bru Second Division side 
Arbroath, called for some instruction from Lunny in respect of post-match interviews. “The last place you want to be is in the stand, as I know from my own experience,” said the Northern Irishman. “Steve, certainly, will learn from this. But I don’t know where, as managers, we draw the line. I think Vincent Lunny should come and speak to managers because at the end of the day we are the ones who are brought up in front of him and the SFA disciplinary panel.

“I think Vincent needs to spell out the guidelines, what we can and can’t say regarding referees in post-match interviews. That would give us a clearer indication and maybe make us count to ten a little bit more in the heat of the moment. I do have a lot of sympathy for all managers in that situation. I was removed from the game at Ibrox last year, unjustifiably so, I felt, and Kenny is obviously feeling that sense of injustice as well. So we need the disciplinary procedure spelt out to us in black and white.

“You do have a spell after the game when you are speaking to your players and then you go out and speak to the press so you do have time (to calm down) but at times managers tell the truth. I don’t know if Kenny was offensive in any way in his post-match interview or to the referee, but we will end up talking in clichés then because we will be protecting ourselves.”

Lennon admits it would be “fair to say” that Celtic fans will see a different side start against the Red Lichties than they will against Spartak Moscow in their Champions League Group G 
decider at Parkhead on Wednesday night.

Celtic need a better result against the Russians than Benfica get against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. Lennon said: “Obviously we have Spartak in mind but I will be putting out a strong team tomorrow. It is important to keep momentum going for Wednesday night. There are players ready to play and Emilio Izaguirre and Thomas Rogne will come into contention. But there will be players who play tomorrow who also play on Wednesday night.

“I am not going to change 11 players just for the sake of it. I want to progress in this competition, I don’t want to throw all my eggs into one basket.

“But there will be plenty of players having a rest between now and Wednesday. The Spartak game is certainly defining in terms of qualification for the last 16 but that is just the one competition. There is a lot of football to be played. We are not even halfway through the domestic calendar yet. But in terms of European football, it is a defining game. It will differentiate whether we play in the Europa League or the Champions League and we would all want to be in the Champions League.

“It is out of our hands to a certain extent. What we have to do is win the game and make Benfica win in the Nou Camp and if they do that then credit to them.”

Dylan McGeouch is looking to remind Celtic fans of his talents today. The 19-year-old midfielder broke his jaw in a pre-season friendly against Real Madrid in Philadelphia and then picked up medial ligament injury in training, which has restricted his game time to three substitute appearances, with his only start coming against Raith Rovers in a League Cup tie in September.

McGeouch, who is set to come back into the side, said: “I twisted my medial ligament in training about a month ago, which put me out for a few weeks. I just got back into training a week or two ago and I have been on a few times as substitute. Hopefully the injuries are behind me.

“It is depressing to be injured because there is a lot of big games at this club. Hopefully I can get a good 90 minutes under my belt and show everybody that I’m back to full fitness.”