Friday, 13 May 2011

Where will it end?

This week saw Scottish football dragged further into the gutter. In the game against Celtic and Hearts, a lone Hearts fan raced from the crowd, past security to physically attack the Celtic manager Neil Lennon. This is the latest in a long line of sectarian, terrorist attacks endured by the Celtic boss, in a season which has brought out the very worst in Scottish football and the fans who follow it.

When Lennon took over from Tony Mowbury last year, he surely could have had no idea of the ordeal in which he, and his family would face from a fanatical minority who follow the national game. In the last year he has had to suffer, abusive chants, death threats, and packages sent aimed to maim or kill. And now finally the voice of this fringe group has a face in a physical attack in the one place Lennon probably felt safe, the football dugout.

The question that hangs over the head of Scottish football, is why there is such pronounced, vile hatred aimed at a man who has committed no crime other than managing one half of the old firm divide. Yes Lennon, is an antagonist, both as a player and manager he has had the knack or riling up players, managers and fans. But then some of the greatest managers of this generation have the same attributes; Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Arsene Wenger have all gotten under the skin of the opposition, yet they have never had to endure such vile bitter hatred, they have never had bullets and home made bombs sent to them. They have never had to have 24 hour security for themselves and their families, so why has it reached such a stage with Lennon. The answer is simple. The fans/players these managers have riled up realise what most of us do. THAT IT'S JUST A GAME!

As a Celtic fan I've never had an issue with Lennon, that should seem obvious, yet I do understand why many opposition fans wouldn't like him, he is an outspoken, passionate man who often acts first before thinking of the wider consequences. Yet the hatred shown for him verged on that of a serial killer or paedophile. After the incident on Wednesday night, I've seen friends of mine saying they wished they could knock him out, or worse, and these are usually decent right minded people, so I can only imagine the thoughts running through the heads of these lunatics involved in this terror campaign.

Every time we see or hear the latest horror incident involving the man, you feel that that's the worst of it, and yet the longer it goes on the more horrific it becomes. What is the endgame of this situation? What if that attacker had a weapon or a future attacker takes it further. How does it all end?

The sad truth is that win or lose at the end of the season, Neil Lennon has a decision to make. Does he continue in a job he clearly loves, and has worked hard for? Or does common sense prevail, and he walks off into the sunset, with his family and his life intact. Surely as a society we should all be appalled that any person would have to make that decision.

While I'm sure Neil Lennon will spend the summer searching for the answer, so we, should all take a good look at ourselves. How has it gotten this bad? Football is a beautiful game which brings out the best and worst emotions in us, Joy, euphoria, depression, rage and sometimes even laughter. But when the whistle blows for full time the game is over and normality resumes. Somewhere along the way Scottish football fans have lost this. Will it take the death of Neil Lennon for us to get it back? I can only hope we come to our senses long before that nightmare arrives.   

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