Neil Lennon claimed on Friday that anti-Irish racism is becoming a huge issue in Scotland after the Hibernian manager endured fresh abuse during his club’s Edinburgh derby draw with Hearts.
Lennon has been repeatedly targeted for abuse from fans in Scotland and he believes that is because he is an Irish Catholic with strong ties to Celtic, whose supporters are drawn from the Catholic community.
“That’s the basis of it, has been since 2000 (when Lennon arrived at Celtic). You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism,” Lennon said ahead of his side’s home match with St Johnstone on Saturday.
Lennon, who enjoyed successful spells as a Celtic player and manager, was hit on the jaw by a coin thrown from Hearts section of Tynecastle during Wednesday’s stormy goalless draw in the Scottish Premiership.
Some pundits have suggested former Northern Ireland international Lennon brought the incident on himself by provocatively gesturing to Hearts fans to calm down following a disallowed goal.
But Lennon insists the abuse is all down to anti-Irish sentiment.
“If a black man is abused, you are not just abusing the colour of his skin, you are abusing his culture, his heritage, his background.
“It’s the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people with the sense of entitlement or superiority complex. And all I do is stand up for myself.
“I’ve been subjected to this for 18 years. I’m 47, I’m fed up of it. I’m the manager of Hibs now and I’m still getting it.”
Lennon has been a divisive figure for years due to the age-old feud between Protestants and Catholics that bubbles over into sport in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The 47-year-old was once knocked unconscious in a street attack and was the recipient of a parcel bomb in a separate incident, with his goal celebrations and touchline antics at times inflaming the tense situation.
"There's an effigy outside Tynecastle saying 'hang Neil Lennon'- that was before the game. Did I bring that on myself?"@HibernianFC head coach Neil Lennon hits back strongly at comments he is to blame for incidents at the Edinburgh Derby. https://t.co/0aPKsRWBvN
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) November 2, 2018
The message ‘hang Neil Lennon’ was daubed on a wall near Tynecastle on Wednesday and former Leicester star Lennon has called on the authorities to take action to rid the game of racism.
“Hanging people is something the Ku Klux Klan did in the 60s to black people, so maybe that’s the mentality of the people who write this stuff,” he said.
“There’s a problem. It’s a big problem. And you all turn your back on it, you all laugh about it, and brush it aside. It’s right there. I keep hearing all this ‘One Scotland’, we are open to everyone. At times it hasn’t been the case to me.
“I had a career in England unblemished by all this stuff. I had two years at Bolton (as manager between 2014-2016) – no abuse, no attacks, no suspensions. As soon as you come back to Scotland, it rears its ugly head.
“It’s there right in front of you every week, you hear the songs in stadiums. That’s got to be stamped out but people don’t want to do it.
“They say ‘there’s 40,000 people in there, there’s 60,000 in that stadium, you can’t do anything about it’. You can, if you really want to.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)