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Lennon: I won’t let hate campaign force me out of Celtic job

By Connla Young

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has vowed that he will not be deterred from his job despite being targeted in a sinister hate campaign.

Lennon has spoken for the first time since it emerged that parcel bombs addressed to him were intercepted by police.

Strathclyde Police are investigating after the bombs were sent to Lennon and two others connected with Celtic.

And the Celtic manager has received backing from his Rangers counterpart Walter Smith, who described events this week as a “new low” in the history of the Old Firm.

Ahead of tomorrow’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox Neil Lennon said: “Anyone in any walk of life shouldn't have to deal with something like this.

“It is uncomfortable, you see your face every hour on the hour on the news and after a while you start thinking: ‘Is that me they are talking about?’

“And I had to deal with that on the day of a very important game (against Kilmarnock).

“I'd like to thank the police for all their briefings and the professionalism they had shown and the security they have given me over the last week, 10 days. They have been absolutely fantastic and made life as easy as possible under the circumstances.

“I've had this for 10 years but I don't want to say you get used to it, because you never do.

“It's been with me during my time as a player, my time as a coach and my time as a manager.

“But it is not going to deter me from doing what I want to do.

“For me this is the greatest privilege in my life, to manage this football club, and the support I've had from the fans and my close family and friends has been my strength.”

Asked if this would have happened at any club other than Celtic, the former Northern Ireland international replied: “It wouldn't, no.”

He added: “And it's not because it's my aggressive behaviour on the pitch any more.

“A lot was said about that when I played, and I think you all know the reasons why these things are happening now.

“It's good that people are talking about it and we will get something done about it.”

Rangers boss Smith believes the parcel bomb threat targeted at his Celtic counterpart is a new low in the history of the Old Firm rivalry.

Smith said: “In the 20 years I've been involved, and being from the west of Scotland, I've never known a week quite like this. It's sad.

“When you look at people like Neil Lennon and the other couple of people involved in threats, it's something that unfortunately goes far beyond the footballing aspect.”

Smith himself is understood to have been warned by police about his own security amid fears that the parcel bomb publicity could spark copycat attempts.

The 63-year-old said: “You always worry, the people I have just mentioned have had a direct threat and it's them and their families who have got to handle this situation.

“Regardless of what any of us say, for football to get to this level is entirely wrong.

“And the people who are behind it... you struggle to find the words actually to say how you feel about the overall situation.”

Strathclyde Police ‘Safer Communities’ Superintendent Derek Robertson said: “We're putting a lot of extra police officers into our streets, into our communities, because we're focusing on keeping people safe.

“The vast majority of the public have nothing to worry about because they'll have a good weekend, they'll behave responsibly.

“However, there are a minority within our society intent on criminal and anti-social behaviour.

“These extra officers are on the streets to deal with them robustly and quickly to make sure everyone enjoys the weekend.

“In previous analysis when there's a Rangers-Celtic match on we have seen crime rising.

“It would be wrong for us not to plan and prepare for this to make sure the public are kept safe.

“I would say to Rangers and Celtic fans: enjoy the match, enjoy the football, behave responsibly and that's nothing to worry about.

“However, if they are intent on any criminal behaviour, on any anti-social behaviour in relation to the football, we've got sufficiency of officers to deal with it.”

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