Belfast Telegraph

Neil Lennon forced to axe Irish visit as police probe Old Firm chaos

Police in Glasgow have launched an investigation into the events surrounding last week’s chaotic Old Firm match.

Rangers players Steven Whittaker, Madjid Bougherra and El-Hadji Diouf were shown red cards in a game that featured 13 cautions and saw Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist and Celtic boss Neil Lennon share a heated exchange after the final whistle.

Lennon was yesterday forced to cancel a trip to Ireland after receiving a series of death threats. He was due to lead out his team in front of almost 2,000 fans for a benefit game against Finn Harps.

But security bosses advised |the Armagh native to remain in Scotland. Yesterday the Celtic team arrived at Donegal's Carrickfinn Airport amid tight security and without their manager.

Lennon and Diouf clashed on the touchline during the Scottish Cup match, which Celtic won 1-0.

The Celtic manager has denied making racist remarks to Diouf, after police confirmed they were investigating complaints from 200 Rangers fans that he insulted the player.

The supporters alleged that Lennon was seen shouting “F*** off, n*****” during the heated exchange. It is claimed that the incident was captured on camera.

But a spokesman for the Celtic chief responded: “These allegations are completely outrageous — with no substance whatsoever.

“There is a concerted campaign by malicious and despicable individuals to cause distress to Neil Lennon. Celtic Football Club and all Celtic fans stand by their manager in the face of these vicious and unacceptable attacks.”

A spokesman for Strathclyde Police said: “We have received complaints from the public regarding allegations surrounding the events during the Old Firm match on Wednesday, which we are currently investigating.”

The events of the game at Celtic Park have been condemned by the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Police Federation and First Minister Alex Salmond.

The police probe comes after the interception of a suspicious package which had been addressed to Lennon. The item, which was intercepted at a sorting office in Saltcoats, turned out to be a hoax, Celtic confirmed, but Lennon has been given 24-hour surveillance at his home.

Earlier in the season the Celtic boss had bullets sent to him in the post. Lennon was a central figure in the mayhem which engulfed the Scottish Cup fifth-round replay.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawell, though, revealed the club's distress at the latest security alert surrounding Lennon.

“Clearly, this most recent sickening event in a long line of threats to Neil and his family is extremely worrying,” he said.\[Michael Ford\]”This demonstrates the intensity and pressure which Neil endures as the Celtic manager.

“However, he has coped with these issues incredibly well during his short time as manager, showing what a strong character he is.

“Indeed, it is extremely sad that Neil has had to contend with such issues for more than a decade, both as a Celtic player and manager.

“No-one in any walk of life should have to live their life in this way and those responsible should be condemned.

“It goes without saying Neil and

his family will continue to receive every support from the club.”

Background

Police made at least 34 arrests on Wednesday night after the Old Firm clash erupted into hatred. The fans were held after some players, and management from both sides, lost control during the cup tie. Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Ibrox assistant boss Ally McCoist clashed at full-time after three Rangers players were given red cards, including El-Hadji Diouf (right, confronting Lennon).

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