Neil Lennon is subjected to sectarian abuse every day in Scotland because he’s an Irish Catholic who played for Celtic, his agent has claimed.
Martin Reilly called for action after the Hibernian head coach was hit with a coin during last week’s Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle.
Lennon was previously assaulted in the technical area at the same ground while managing Celtic in 2011 and – in just some of the other attacks he has been subjected to – has been knocked unconscious in the street and sent viable parcel bombs.
Reilly told Clyde 1 Superscoreboard: “These things have been going on since he came into Celtic in 2000. He made his debut at Dens Park and basically nobody really knew who he was then. He was targeted from the first kick of the ball at Dens Park. And we’re in 2018 and it’s still going on.”
The agent could not believe former Celtic defender Gary Caldwell’s claim that Lennon “brings a lot of it on himself”. Seconds before the pound coin was thrown, the 47-year-old gestured to Hearts fans to calm down after their team had a goal disallowed.
“For him to come out with that statement, basically saying that he brings it on himself, for me is just absolute nonsense,” Reilly said.
“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, or do an aeroplane? Is that really that bad? It’s basically banter.
“Outside of football he is sectarian-abused every single day of his life, and it has been going on since he took the pitch at Dens Park that night.
“Neil has been victimised by this. We can’t talk about cupping the ears and doing aeroplanes and all that stuff because he got it his first night at Dundee when nobody knew him.
“How did he bring it on that night? Did he bring it on because he’s got blond hair, because he’s a £6million player?
“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, the game started.”
Reilly added: “These things have to be taken out of our game very, very quickly or it’s going to suffer. Or 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.”
Picture: Hibernian manager Neil Lennon reacts during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. (Robert Perry/PA).