Man charged over attack on Celtic manager Lennon

Man charged over attack on Celtic manager Lennon

Published May. 12, 2011 3:43 p.m. ET

Scotland's political leader condemned the ''bigots and fools'' targeting Scottish soccer after Celtic manager Neil Lennon was assaulted by a fan during a match.

A 26-year-old man was arrested after running onto the pitch and landing a glancing blow on Lennon during the second half of Celtic's 3-0 away win over Hearts on Wednesday night. Lennon was not injured.

The man was due to appear in court on Thursday, and local police said they ''will work closely with both football clubs and the SPL'' to ''establish all the facts.''

It was the latest incident in a campaign of violence aimed at Lennon. The Northern Irishman has been subjected to sectarian death threats, while bullets and parcel bombs have been sent in the mail to him in recent months.


Another suspicious package addressed to Lennon and containing a bullet was found at Celtic's stadium in Glasgow on Thursday, police said.

Police also arrested two men Thursday in connection with the previous mail bombs, which were intercepted before reaching Lennon and two prominent Celtic fans in March and April and never exploded. The men, aged 41 and 43, were detained following raids in Kilwinning, 30 miles southwest of Glasgow.

''The most important development today is the progress police have made in their inquiry,'' Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond told Sky News.

Salmond insisted that progress is being made in banishing sectarianism from the Scottish game. While Celtic is traditionally supported by Irish Catholics, Glasgow rival Rangers and Hearts, based in Edinburgh, are both mainly supported by Protestants.

''Throughout society substantial progress has been made,'' Salmond said, citing the successful visit by Pope Benedict XVI last year. ''But quite clearly surrounding and attaching themselves to the game - let's not talk about them being part of football - we have some bigots and fools attaching themselves to the game.''

After Celtic scored the second goal Wednesday, the fan ran onto the field from the home section of the main stand at Hearts' Tynecastle stadium. He appeared to lose his balance as he lunged at Lennon but still made contact with his left hand to the back of the manager's head.

The fan was wrestled to the ground and then taken away by police.

''Clearly this kind of behavior from supporters is wholly unacceptable,'' Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan said. ''The safety of players, club officials and match officials is paramount on or around the field of play, and this clear breach of security is a matter I will be discussing with SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster.''

Lennon did not speak to reporters after the match.

''Don't let what happened to me tonight take the shine off a wonderful team performance... I don't walk alone,'' Lennon said on Twitter.

The win moved Celtic within one point of defending champion Rangers going into Sunday's final matches.

''It's a disgrace,'' Celtic assistant coach Johan Mjallby said. ''Neil was shocked, and obviously, he's had death threats (previously) and he's shaken right now. I have never seen anything like it.

''We have to look into this because when you work in management you should be secure in a football ground.''

Lennon and players Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn, who like Lennon are from Northern Ireland, were also sent packages containing bullets earlier this year.

Lennon quit international soccer in 2002 after having made 39 appearances, saying he had received death threats from a paramilitary group in Northern Ireland.