Neil Lennon has revealed regret over his reaction to being sent off during Hibs’ weekend match with Kilmarnock, but insisted he didn’t deserve to be given his marching orders, claiming his behaviour is no worse than other managers.
Easter Road head coach Lennon was livid when referee Kevin Clancy awarded the Rugby Park side a highly-debatable penalty and was seen sarcastically clapping in front of the official’s face as they confronted each other on the touchline.
However, Lennon was adamant the way he acted was nothing to do with the penalty decision – one which allowed Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd to level the score at 2-2 after Hibs had taken a two-goal lead in the opening nine minutes – but rather the result of fourth official Gavin Ross, who he described as being “over-zealous and over-officious”, in advising Clancy to send him to the stand.
In his post-match press conference Lennon accused Clancy of incompetence and having a personal vendetta after he’d criticised the same referee for not giving Hibs a spot-kick during a match with Rangers at Easter Road on December before going on to describe the whole system in Scotland as “amateurish and Mickey Mouse”.
Lennon admitted he wasn’t surprised to find himself facing two charges of misconduct – including ‘indicating bias or incompetence on the part of a match official’ – brought by the SFA’s compliance officer Tony McGlennan but insisted he will go to Hampden on March 15 to fight his corner.
“In the main, they are pretty fair,” said Lennon. “They allow you to state your case so that’s what we will do as best we can and take it from there. I’d like to think I’d get an explanation – it will probably be in the referees’ report.
“I will debate it as vigorously as possible because my behaviour was not any different to any other manager up and down the country every weekend. I shouldn’t even be talking about my behaviour. My behaviour has been really good. I sound like a schoolboy here compared to a lot of other managers and what I have seen.”
In the wake of the weekend events, Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke suggested match officials should be supported and encouraged, leading Lennon to say: “I get that. We have had 28 league games this season and I would say in 23 or 24 of them I have gone to the delegate and said ‘you know what, he’s had a really good game, the officials were excellent’.
“None of that ever gets reported. All that does is me being the villain, castigating referees. And that is not the case at all.”
Asked if he felt he was treated differently because he was Neil Lennon, he replied: “Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t have any evidence or proof of that. But certainly my reaction to the penalty did not warrant a sending-off when I see the behaviour of some other managers.
“I thought he [Clancy] was rash with the penalty decision and he was certainly rash with the sending-off. If he had come over to me and said ‘you know what Lenny, one more and you’re off, fair enough. But not a straight red.”
And, insisted Lennon. it was that decision and not the penalty which led him to act the way he did, something he now regrets. He said: “I’m not happy with my reaction, obviously. I’m not happy with the penalty decision – but it did not make me react the way I did. The sending-off did.
“I think that’s what’s getting missed. I debated the decision as any other manager would with the fourth official. I didn’t think my behaviour on the day warranted a sending-off. That’s basically why I reacted the way I did. It’s unacceptable from my point of view. It made me very, very angry. It basically added insult to injury.”