Lennon emerges victorious

By Robert McCracken

In the cauldron of hate and vitriol that was Celtic Park during last night’s Scottish Cup replay; one man came out victorious, at least in terms of the result. The man whose forthright and outspoken managerial style is making him even more of a hate figure than he was before, Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Lennon’s reaction to the behaviour of El Hadji Diouf, and the flashpoint at the end of the match with Rangers manager in waiting Ally McCoist are no doubt talking points and rightly so; the behaviour of both clubs backroom staff and players, particularly those in blue, were reprehensible and the fallout will run deeper than the SFA disciplinary procedures. Scottish football has once again been thrust into the limelight for the wrong reasons, thanks to frankly abhorrent behaviour. The SFA referred to the scenes as “inflammatory and irresponsible” and is absolutely correct, if not slightly tame in their word choice. High tension, high emotion games will always result in heat of the moment reaction and this is what football thrives on, however this undercurrent of sheer hatred flowed throughout the match and was manifested in the ugly scenes on display. Lennon is never far from the centre of attention but on this occasion who can blame Lennon for reacting to Diouf, a man whose footballing ability is undermined by his desire to aggravate and incite the opponent.

Despite his many flaws and his confrontational behaviour Neil Lennon emerged from this game the victor. Another Old Firm victory to add to his very impressive record against Rangers as a manager. In 37 clashes both as a player and manager he has probably never been involved in such ugly scenes in an Old Firm tie.

The Celtic performance was head and shoulders above everything that happened in the stadium. In an atmosphere of such indiscipline, the Celtic players performed well and with the utmost professionalism. In comparison with Rangers who were disappointing and frankly disgusting in their style of play. If you showed the performances to someone who didn’t know the teams, you would not have expected Celtic to be managed by the rookie, and Rangers the disciplined elder statesman.

Celtic have come out of this game psychologically ahead of Rangers and this is thanks to the man on the touchline. McCoist could not have a bigger task ahead of him if he is going to have this Rangers side challenging Celtic in the coming seasons.

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