Soccer boss regularly receives abuse and death threats because of Irish Catholic roots

Neil Lennon

Northern Irish soccer manager Neil Lennon is subjected to daily abuse from rival fans because of his Irish Catholic roots.

Now his agent Martin Reilly has called for the Scottish FA to take action.

The abuse is normally verbal but has sometimes taken more violent and sinister forms.

Neil Lennon

In 2011, while Lennon was manager at Celtic, somebody sent a package of bullets to him and player Niall McGinn, which was intercepted at the County Antrim sorting office.

In the past he has also been sent parcel bombs by sectarian thugs and was once knocked unconscious in the street.

Last month, a fan threw a coin from the stands at Lennon, who is now the manager at Hibs, during the Edinburgh derby.

Reilly has now had enough and says the football authorities need to do more to protect his client from such violence and intimidation.

He said: “These things have been going on since he came to Celtic in 2000. When he made his debut against Dundee at Dens Park basically nobody knew who he was then. He was targeted from the first kick of the ball.

“We’re now in 2018, nearly 2019, and it’s still going on.”

A former teammate of Lennon’s, Gary Caldwell, has claimed that Lennon ‘brings a lot of it on himself’.

Lennon was seen making ‘mocking gestures’ to the Hearts fans after a goal was disallowed, shortly before he was struck by the coin.

Reilly said that Caldwell is wrong and that the abuse given out to Lennon starts a long time before he behaves in a way that could be thought of as ‘bringing it on himself’.

He said: “For [Caldwell] to come out with that statement, basically saying that he brings it on himself, for me is just absolute nonsense.

“He doesn’t bring it on himself, he reacts to things that are given to him. If he gets abused for 90 minutes, are you trying to say that he can’t turn round and cup his ears… it’s basically banter.

“Outside of football he is sectarian-abused every single day of his life.

“He brings it on because he’s Irish, he’s Catholic, he played for Northern Ireland and he signed for Celtic.

“He had 39 games for Northern Ireland before he came to Celtic and wasn’t abused once. As soon as he signed for Celtic, it started.”

Reilly added that the Scottish FA needed to act, not just because nobody should be suffering that kind of abuse – but also that it is damaging the image of the game and may put players off from joining the Scottish League in the future.

He said: “Another Neil Lennon in five years maybe coming to Celtic might look at it and think: ‘I’m not doing that, I don’t fancy putting my wife and kids through that for the next 10 years’.

“Two weeks ago we are all holding red cards about racism and that should not be in society, never mind football. But sectarianism is the exact same thing, and we don’t talk about it. It needs stamped out of Scottish football.”

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling