‘Poor and crass to blame Neil Lennon’: Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes backs Hibernian rival in fall-out from derby
- Hearts had what would have been a stoppage-time winner disallowed for offside
- Lennon was hit in the face by object as he celebrated goal being ruled out
- Former Celtic striker Tony Cascarino said Lennon had ‘acted like a fan’
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has backed Neil Lennon against claims he goaded fans before being struck by a coin at Tynecastle and described criticism of the Hibernian boss as ‘poor and crass’.
Former Celtic striker Tony Cascarino said Lennon had ‘acted like a fan’ in the build-up to the violence that marred Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby — as he reacted to Hearts having a late goal ruled out for offside.
Former Celtic team-mate Gary Caldwell, meanwhile, feared the Northern Irishman sometimes incites trouble — comments he quickly tried to clarify afterwards.
Hibs boss Neil Lennon is helped to his feet after being struck by a coin at Tynecastle
But McInnes leapt to the defence of his Hibs counterpart as the fall-out from Wednesday’s night of shame dominated the agenda. In the immediate aftermath of the drama…
Lennon’s agent blamed the incident on racism and bigotry.
PFA Scotland called on action to be taken before someone is ‘seriously hurt or maimed’ at a football match.
Lennon was struck in the face by an object thrown from the crowd on Wednesday night
Hibs and Hearts issued a joint statement vowing to seek out the fans who threw a coin at Lennon and aimed a punch at Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal and impose life bans.
And SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell confirmed that both assistant referees at the match were also hit by objects, describing the attacks as ‘cowardly’.
McInnes said: ‘For people to make comment — and people within the game — that Lenny brings it upon himself, is every bit as poor and crass a comment you can imagine.
Lennon required medical treatment after being hit by a missile in the last moments of derby
‘You get abuse from fans and all the rest of it and you give a wee bit back and it’s seen as a bit of banter for the vast majority and that’s the way we want it.
‘We don’t want robots in the dugout and no kind of banter with the supporters. I’ve been called everything (at Tynecastle) but it’s actually a bit of banter with the people behind the dugout. But there’s nobody in their right mind that could condone what happened.’
Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster also strenuously supported her manager and added: ‘Irrespective of what a manager does trackside, he does not deserve to be hit by an object.
‘If others, the league or anybody else, deem a manager’s antics to go beyond the realms of what’s acceptable then that will be dealt with properly.
‘But remember we are in the entertainment business here as well. And, sorry, I don’t support anybody who says that a manager having interaction with supporters in that manner deserves to be hit by an object.
Lennon gestured to the visiting supporters after the final whistle on Wednesday night
‘You just have to look at the circumstances. We know what the interaction is like for him (at Tynecastle) and he’s human like everybody else. I don’t think we should forget that.’
Lennon’s agent, Martin Reilly, blamed the latest incident involving his client on racism and bigotry.
‘These things have been going on now since he came to Celtic in 2000,’ said Reilly. ‘Neil has been victimised since his very first match at Dundee. It’s 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 was not abused once. As soon as he signed for Celtic the (abuse) started.’
PFA Scotland, meanwhile, called on action to be taken before someone is seriously hurt and revealed that in a survey with players in 2016, 35 per cent said they had been threatened by fans.
"Ultimately it comes down to the individual."
"It was a pound coin, so he must have a few quid on him!"
Hibs boss Neil Lennon shares his few after he was struck by a coin during his side's 0-0 draw vs Hearts. pic.twitter.com/G6SMqp1hCd
‘It is like Groundhog Day as it seems we are continually having to discuss and address issues like this happening at football grounds across the country,’ said chief executive Fraser Wishart.
‘We stress again that any form of verbal abuse, violence or the throwing of objects at players and managers needs to be taken seriously and we trust that the authorities will take the appropriate action to ensure that this dangerous practice is stopped.
‘The football pitch is a player’s place of work and it is not unreasonable for a player, like any other employee, to be able to work with the knowledge that their workplace is indeed a safe environment, free from violence and discrimination and that their health and safety is not at risk.
‘PFA Scotland conducted a survey of our members in 2016 as part of a worldwide survey for the World Players Union FIFPro. Worryingly, 35 per cent of those players surveyed said they had been threatened by fans (34 per cent on a match day).
‘Any form of abuse — verbal or physical — is wholly unacceptable and it is of paramount importance that something is done before someone is seriously hurt or maimed.’
The Edinburgh clubs issued a joint statement yesterday following a meeting between Dempster and Hearts owner Ann Budge and vowed to crack down on rogue fans.
‘We will work closely with Police Scotland and Hibernian to identify the individuals involved in these incidents to ensure they are banned from attending our two stadiums and are formally charged,’ said Budge.
‘While we condemn such behaviour, we must not fall into the trap of condemning the thousands of genuine football fans, who come to be entertained and who do nothing more than passionately support their respective teams.
‘Of the five arrests made last night, one of them was made possible because fellow supporters identified the culprits.
‘By working together in this manner we will succeed in removing the tiny percentage of fans, whose behaviour spoils things for the majority.’
Dempster added: ‘The two clubs are united. This kind of behaviour is simply not acceptable. Players, coaches, supporters, the media, everyone who goes to a football match is entitled to enjoy the match in safety and security.
‘We will not allow the mindless actions of a few foolish individuals to jeopardise that. We will learn any lessons that we can from this, but we would also call on supporters to play their part in helping us to identify those responsible for this kind of unacceptable and potentially dangerous behaviour.’
SFA chief executive Maxwell confirmed that both assistant referees were targeted. On Thursday, a 25-year-old man was charged with assaulting a match official.
Maxwell said: ‘In addition to the well-documented incidents, I am sorry to confirm two of our match officials were also struck by objects.
‘I know no stone will be left unturned to identify those responsible and ensure steps are taken to leave them in no doubt such actions won’t be tolerated by Scottish football.’
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