Scotland’s claim to being a progressive, inclusive society is nonsense according to Hibs head coach Neil Lennon.
The former Celtic player and manager has found himself at the centre of a maelstrom once again as the fall-out from the first Edinburgh derby of the season continues unabated, Lennon struck in the face by a coin thrown from behind the away dug-out at Tynecastle.
Some have accused Lennon of “having brought it upon himself” given he’d turned to the Hearts fans celebrating the fact the home side had been denied what they’d thought was an injury-time winner, a charge the 47-year-old rejected out of hand.
But, insisted Lennon, he’d enjoyed a trouble-free life as a football player until he swapped Leicester City for Celtic at the age of 29.
“It’s been from day one,” he said. “When I came up here from Leicester there was an effigy in Lisburn which said “Neil Lennon RIP” before a ball had even been kicked.
“So you can’t tell me that it’s because I’m an aggressive person, which I am not. I am competitive. I’ll stand up for myself, I won’t bow down to people who think they are above me. That’s just my way. People don’t like it because they are not used to it.”
Lennon, who was infuriated and dismayed to see “Hang Neil Lennon” sprayed on a wall close to Tynecastle, insisted he loved living and working in Scotland but revealed he believed he’s singled out as an Irish Catholic who once played for Celtic, adamant that attitudes prevelant in years gone by continue to exist in this country.
He said: “We are not progressive, the mindset is not progressive. You can point to a lot of things but ultimately it comes from the home.
“I’m not saying there is not bigotry with the Celtic support, and maybe an element in the Hibs support. I’m not saying that.
“I’m talking about my own individual circumstances. I find it very distasteful still. You see all these political adverts about being ‘one Scotland, one democracy’. It’s certainly not when it comes to me.
“I think the graffiti is more serious. The motivation behind that is what? It’s racism. We all it sectarianism here, but for me it’s racism.”
Lennon took umbrage at those who suggested he’d invited trouble on Wednesday night, unhappy at his former Celtic team-mate Gary Caldwell, now manager of Partick Thistle, former Hearts player Stephen Elliott and Les Gray, former chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, who claimed he could have caused a riot.
“It’s not good enough,” he said of Caldwell. “And I think he knows that. He’s made mistake, we all make mistakes and we move on.
“Who is Stephen Elliot? He is an empty vessel, means nothing to me. Probably a badge-kisser for Hearts wanting to make a headline or two and he’ll disappear off the face of the earth very quickly. He can come and say it to my face, we can have a chat and I will put him right on a few things.
“Les Gray was on TV, totally embarrassing, totally missing the point. He said I could have caused a riot – way off.”