Neil Lennon: SFA have to be kidding over Steve Clarke rap

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon
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Neil Lennon has claimed the SFA should know they have a problem when a mild-mannered manager such as Kilmarnock’s Steve Clarke has fiercely criticised them.

Clarke was infuriated at the authority’s handing of Killie’s appeal against their midfielder Gary Dicker’s controversial red card against Hearts, the Rugby Park boss later insisting he knew it was doomed to failure when he heard the referee on that occasion, Willie Collum, would be handling the forthcoming Old Firm clash.

His assertion that the perception of most – and certainly that of Kilmarnock – was that Dicker’s hearing had been pre-judged and that Collum’s decision to send the player off for a challenge on Callumn Morrison “lacked a calm and rational approach” have now led to Clarke being charged with by Clare Whyte, the SFA’s new compliance officer, a decision which Lennon described as “ridiculous”.

The Hibs head coach, himself no stranger to run-ins with the Hampden authorities, insisted Clarke had every right to speak out, saying: “Some managers are mild-mannered, some aren’t. Some are outspoken. Steve doesn’t get as animated as some of us on the touch-line but he is getting frustrated and I can understand why.

“He is very articulate, he’s very calm and I don’t think there was a lot wrong with his statement, so why he is getting hauled over the coals I do not know.

“I’m quite sure he will go there and defend himself and not retract anything. There is confusion and frustration and a manager who has been in the game a long time saying his player or club has been wronged.

“And I think he has every right to come out and speak on behalf of his player and his club. There wasn’t too much damning in the statement for him to be up on a charge.

“You all think I am a bit of a nutter, but sometimes I do have a means for arguing my case. Maybe I might do it a lot more vociferously than others but the premise is the same. It is a pressure job and we’re looking for consistency and we’re not always going to get that, I understand that, but certainly in this case I think they’ve been wronged.”

Dicker’s red card has been just one of a string of early-season controversies with Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos sent off on the opening day for a kick at Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna only to have the red card rescinded while Ibrox goalkeeper Allan McGregor and Hearts midfielder Steven Naismith escaped punishment for seemingly kicking out at opponents.

Adamant the introduction of VAR – although he conceded he didn’t know how it would be funded – would help referees reach more decisions correctly, Lennon revealed clubs had been told that if petulance rather than excessive force was evident then offences would not merit a red card.

He said: “We looked at some videos of petulance and little kicks here and there at the start of the season and we were told common sense said that was a yellow card and not a red.

“Morelos got sent off and I thought that was harsh. In terms of McGregor that maybe could have been deemed a red card, but I thought it was maybe just a bit of petulance as well.”

Meanwhile, Lennon revealed Hibs defender Paul Hanlon will miss the visit of Kilmarnock having picked up a hamstring problem in training and will possibly also be out for next week’s game against St Mirren in Paisley.