Neil Lennon says he cannot condone the actions of shamed Jamie Carragher but has called for a degree of understanding, arguing that most people do not realise the provocations faced by people in the public eye.
The Hibernian manager is not the first high-profile person to bemoan the issues associated with trying to go about every day business when your face is so well known. On Sunday, Celtic star Scott Sinclair was the latest player to suffer abuse, with police being called to an incident in a Glasgow Airport lounge, and Lennon revealed that it takes mental and emotional fortitude to continually ignore people who seem to take perverse pleasure in goading others.
But he stopped short of defending the response of the former Liverpool player, who lacked restraint in the aftermath of Liverpool’s defeat to rivals Manchester United on Saturday. The 40-year-old was caught on camera spitting at a teenage girl, travelling in a car with her father who was heckling the Sky Sports pundit.
“It’s a split-second, really bad decision. It’s wrong what he did but he has been completely contrite about the whole thing. It is very difficult to draw a line under it and he is going to have to live with that for a little while. But I don’t believe it should cost him his job or his career.”
Police have said they will take no action but the former England international, who moved swiftly to apologise, has been suspended by Sky for the rest of the season and Lennon says that, although he has not spoken to him since the incident, he believes he will be haunted by regret.
“It was one moment of madness. He will be going through a really tough time at the minute. It’s a very sorry episode but I do feel that he has responded quickly in the right way. Obviously Sky have their own take on it, but everyone deserves a second chance.”
While Carragher’s actions captured the headlines and provoked widespread condemnation, Lennon explains that it is often “very difficult” to keep cool when being dogged by insults, or worse.
“Andy Flintoff [ex-England cricketer] was talking about an incident when a guy came up to him, started talking and then tried to swing a punch at him. He had to hold him to the ground and he couldn’t do anything just in case someone was filming it. He had to not only defend himself, but act as a peacemaker as well.
“Everybody says they are role models. I get that. But they are human beings as well and are surely allowed a private time. A lot of people are seen as fair game. It’s not right. Look at what happened to Eddie Jones [the England rugby coach was verbally abused after the Calcutta Cup match]. That’s happened to e many, many times. And not just me. I’ve talked to Graeme Souness. He went through the same thing up here and I am sure managers elsewhere go through it. It’s unfair.”
An often contentious character since his arrival in Scottish football, Lennon knows how toxic the attention can become, and he insists it does impact on the psyche.
“You become paranoid. You have to watch every thing that you do. That’s totally unfair. We do have pressurised jobs and it can be an intense environment.
“Sometimes you just want to be able to get away from that and relax and that can be difficult. I’ve been out many times with friends or family, having a meal or a drink, and people were taking photographs without our consent. Next thing you are online or on Facebook. That’s an intrusion on your private life.”
Usually happy to oblige fans when approached, Lennon laments the fact that, no matter how accommodating stars are, there will always be someone looking to perpetuate the negative. “You can take 100 photographs and the one person you say no to will be the one that everybody hears about and you are the bad guy. So you become sensitive. It is difficult.”
Which is why he does not want Carragher hanged, drawn and quartered without all the facts. “There might be more to it than what we saw on camera to possess Jamie to do that and he has just snapped at that particular stage. I have a tad of sympathy for him. We’ve all done things that we regret.”