When Jose Mourinho reacts to the crowd it’s ‘fun’ but people say I incite a riot, says Hibernian boss Neil Lennon
- Neil Lennon feels he is treated differently to other managers over his actions
- He cited the ear-cupping of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho in Turin
- The Hibs boss has been the subject of recent abuse after the game at Hearts
- Lennon said he has received messages of support from figures within the game
Neil Lennon admits he won’t hold his breath waiting for the football authorities to publicly respond to his assertion that he has faced anti-Irish racism while working in Scotland.
The Hibernian manager spoke out last week after being stuck by a coin during a powderkeg Edinburgh derby, after which it was revealed graffiti stating ‘Hang Neil Lennon’ had been sprayed on a wall near Tynecastle.
Lennon insisted he had received messages of support from within the game and was heartened to see campaign group Show Racism the Red Card call for the SFA and FA to investigate ‘anti-Irish discrimination’ directed at Lennon and Stoke City’s James McClean.
Neil Lennon feels he is treated differently to other managers when it comes to touchline antics
He cited the ear-cupping of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho on Wednesday evening
However, the 47-year-old claimed little had been done by the authorities since he first entered the Scottish game as a Celtic player in December 2000.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster declined to go into detail about the wider fall-out from the Edinburgh derby – or face questions from the written Press – when he attended a media event with Premiership sponsors Ladbrokes earlier this week.
‘I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to talk about it when he’s asked the question,’ said Lennon. ‘A statement came out from Show Racism The Red Card yesterday so I was pleased to see that. It seems some associations are quite keen to do something about it and others aren’t.’
Lennon feels little has been done by authorities during his time in Scotland to stop the abuse
Asked if he would like to see a statement from the SFA or SPFL, Lennon added: ‘That’s up to them. I came out and said what I said last week. You don’t have to agree with it but I’m just talking about my own individual circumstances.
‘Those things should have been tackled a long time ago and I said that last week. They have had 18 years, more, and people can try to change the narrative all they like but from my point of view that’s exactly what it is.
‘I have shrugged it off and laughed it off for too long now and whether the coin incident was sectarian, I don’t know. But certainly the graffiti outside the ground had more sinister undertones from my point of view.’
Former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith claimed earlier this week that Lennon should have been punished for his behaviour prior to being hit by the coin. He had turned towards the Hearts fans as he gleefully reacted to a late strike from Clevid Dikamona being chalked off.
Ex-Crewe colleague Danny Murphy has also been critical of Lennon’s touchline demeanour, but the Easter Road boss pointed towards Jose Mourinho’s ear-cupping antics after Manchester United’s win over Juventus on Tuesday night as he claimed he was unfairly portrayed.
Lennon was stood on the touchline when he was struck by a pound coin thrown from the crowd
‘Did you see Mourinho last night? Is there any difference?’ Lennon argued. ‘And the way that’s portrayed is fun.
‘I understand why he did it but it’s double standards and it smacks of hypocrisy. Do I get treated differently or portrayed differently? Yeah, obviously. It’s there in two incidents. One’s seen as goading, inciting a riot, and the other’s fun, but they’re exactly the same thing.’
Insisting he wasn’t aware of Smith’s comments, Lennon added: ‘They’re pundits – they’re allowed to express an opinion. I don’t have to agree with it.
‘They’ve every right to voice their opinion whether or not I agree with it. That’s down to me. I don’t like this holier than thou attitude because we sometimes do things emotionally in split-seconds. Jose was a great example of that.’
Others, including one-time Old Firm adversary Ally McCoist, have been forthright in backing Lennon and rejecting claims that he ‘brings it on himself’.
Lennon felt the reaction to Mourinho compared to how he is perceived smacks of hypocrisy
‘I’d rather listen to Ally’s opinion more than some other people’s because we’ve walked in the same shoes, more or less,’ insisted the former Northern Ireland midfielder.
Lennon admitted he felt the storm surrounding his comments had been a significant factor in last weekend’s 1-0 loss to St Johnstone. He hopes the focus will be solely on football when his side head to Aberdeen for Friday’s televised Premiership encounter.
‘I’m looking for a big improvement,’ he continued. ‘I take responsibility for the defeat last week. I felt for the players last week with all the hoo-ha going on in the background, they’re not used to that.
‘You could tell there was a lack of focus, not just from the players but also the manager. I don’t want to be bringing that sort of stuff to a club like Hibs so I’ll take responsibility for what happened last weekend. I’m looking for a reaction now at Pittodrie.’
Asked if he’d had any thoughts of leaving his post after the events of the past nine days, Lennon added: ‘I’m not answering that. I’m still here.
Lennon is looking for a big improvement to the St Johnstone defeat as Hibs travel to Aberdeen
‘I will make that decision but at the moment I am just focusing on a very important game. You are bringing up stuff again from last week and we have hardly touched on the game tomorrow night and that is what our focus has been on this week. But people have opinions and I put mine out there last week and you don’t have to agree with it.’
Sixth-placed Hibs are above Aberdeen only on goal-difference, with Derek McInnes’ side having enjoyed a recent upswing in results.
‘They’ve found their form again,’ said Lennon, who has secured Lewis Stevenson on a new contract until 2021. ‘I think they had a huge fillip from the semi-final win (over Rangers).
‘I’ve got huge admiration for Derek and the job he’s done there. They got a great result at Kilmarnock last weekend. That’s not an easy place to go and come from behind so they’ve clearly got plenty character.’
David Gray and Paul Hanlon are out for Hibs, while Thomas Agyepong and Emerson Hyndman are doubts.
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