Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Celtic’s Neil Lennon gives evidence

John Wilson is accused of attacking Celtic manager Neil Lennon at a football match
John Wilson is accused of attacking Celtic manager Neil Lennon at a football match

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has told a court that an alleged religiously aggravated attack on him was the "tipping point" in a season that saw him threatened with bombs and bullets.

He was giving evidence in the trial of John Wilson (26), of Edinburgh, who is accused of attacking him at a crucial Heart of Midlothian v Celtic match at Tynecastle Stadium on May 11 this year.

Mr Lennon (below) described the fixture as "a muscling game". At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, he said: "It was a huge game in the context of the season, with ourselves and Rangers going for the title."

Mr Lennon said that this particular game on May 11 "had a bit more of an edge to it".

Mr Lennon then described how he was celebrating Celtic's second goal, and ran to the touchline to give instructions to his players, when he was attacked.

He said: "I felt a contact to the corner of my head and then saw a body sort of sprawled out in front of me - and it was then I realised that he had tried to get to me. It felt like a glancing blow to the corner of my head," he added, pointing at his left eyebrow.

"It all happened very quickly, and I sort of went into a defence position, crouching to avoid contact with whoever it was that was attacking me.

"He was off balance and ended up lying in front of me."

Mr Lennon added: "I was going to go for him, because I wasn't sure what he had in his hand.

"I knew I had been attacked so it was a split second self-defence mechanism. I didn't know but he could have been carrying something."

Mr Lennon said he did nothing to provoke the incident. He added: "If you would call doing my job inciting violence, then I was just doing my job."

Story so far

Neil Lennon has been the target of sectarian abuse over many years. This has included internet abuse, packages addressed to him containing a bullet and two "viable" parcel bombs. In September 2008 he was attacked in Glasgow's Ashton Lane. Lennon retired from the Northern Ireland squad in 2002 after he received a loyalist death threat.

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