Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 May 2016

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Lennon vows to continue backing Celtic players after row

By Ronnie Esplin

Published 28/11/2012

MLS star Juan Agudelo has been training with Celtic and talks are ongoing with his representatives
MLS star Juan Agudelo has been training with Celtic and talks are ongoing with his representatives

Neil Lennon regrets his bust-up with Celtic fans but will continue to back his players when he feels criticism is unjustified.

The Hoops boss dramatically threatened to quit the club after an altercation with several disgruntled supporters during the shock 1-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League defeat by Inverness at Parkhead on Sunday.

Caley's first league win in the east end of Glasgow was met by a chorus of boos by the home fans but despite the champions having dropped 17 points — which is just four less than in the whole of last season — they remain top of the SPL by one point and can look forward to a Champions League Group G decider against Spartak Moscow next week.

Ahead of tonight's trip to Hearts, the former Celtic skipper reflected on the weekend's events with the help of some typical humour.

“I regret it, yes, of course,” said Lennon. “It's not something I want to do.

“But if I think it (criticism) is unjustified I will voice my opinion.

“I am defending my team. I know it is difficult for fans because they are passionate about the team and want them to do well but sometimes it doesn't help.

“I wasn't getting any stick personally, it was directed towards the team and I was defending the team because they are giving me everything.

“I think the world of my players and think the world of my supporters as well.

“But if I was the manager of Accrington Stanley I would do exactly the same time — although the way the results are going, I might soon be.”

The Northern Irishman knows from his time as a battling midfielder at Celtic Park that criticism comes with the territory but he insists there is “no division” between him and the supporters.

He said: “We are not happy with our recent home form but we are progressing, we are still in four competitions, we are top of the league albeit not playing as consistently as we would like.

“So at times we need a wee bit of patience but you don't always get that at big clubs, and I understand that.

“I'm sure we had our bad spells under Martin (O'Neill) and Gordon (Strachan).

“I can remember coming back from the San Siro after we lost to a Kaka goal in the last 16 of the Champions League (against AC Milan), and then we lost an Old Firm game 1-0 after playing quite well.

“We were getting dog's abuse although we were still 13 points clear at the time.

“So sometimes you set the bar high and if you don't meet the expectations the fans do voice their opinions, which they are entitled to do.

“If the support are not happy with what they are seeing and voice their displeasure then I will review my situation. That's always been the case from day one.

“But there is no division here. I was expressing an opinion.

“I think they are right to expect us to win at home against Inverness, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone.”

Meanwhile, Lennon will continue to monitor United States international striker Juan Agudelo.

The 20-year-old Chivas USA player has been training at Lennoxtown during the Major League Soccer close season.

The Hoops boss said: “He is a player who has impressed us and we hope to take it further.

“He has done very well in the two weeks he has been here.

“He needs a break because he has had a long season but we hope to speak to his representatives over the next week but again, it is too early to say one way or the other.”

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