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My Celtic agony: Neil Lennon reveals 'chaos' wore him down

By Claire Williamson

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon has opened up about his departure from the club for the first time and revealed that his decision to stand down was influenced by "chaos and madness" which wore him down.

The Lurgan man resigned as the manager of Celtic in May this year after 11 years in Glasgow, first as a player then manager, having initially joined the club from Leicester City in January 2001.

After leaving Scotland at the end of last season, Lennon took a six-month break before landing a new job as Bolton Wanderers manager last month.

The 43-year-old replaced Tony Mowbray at Celtic Park in 2010 and as well as leading the club to three successive Scottish Premiership triumphs, he also helped the Hoops claim two Scottish Cup wins and masterminded their run to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2013 after a famous victory over Barcelona in Glasgow.

There were question marks over his departure as to why he would leave without having a new venture lined up, but speaking out about his exit he discusses bullets in the post and the failure to label the abuse he received as sectarian.

The former Northern Ireland international said: "I don't want to paint a bad picture because it's fantastic up there from a football point of view, but it does wear you down in the end.

"Maybe it was the chaos and the madness catching up with me, but I just felt desperately tired. When I was younger I was able to have the energy and courage to get through it, when I was getting bullets through the post and all that.

"I had good people of intelligence in the background who were looking after me, but in the end I was exhausted emotionally.

"It all caught up with me. I needed a change of scenery. Did it change me as a person? Not really, no.

"Did it have an effect on me? I think at times it did. Now I'm out of it, do I miss the intensity? Sometimes, yes. We live off that, but I am loving what I am doing now.

"I can concentrate on the management and

the football rather than the other stuff.

"I also need to prove I can manage in England."

Both Lennon (pictured) and two of his Northern Ireland-born Celtic players, Paddy McCourt and Niall McGinn, who have now both left the club, had bullets sent to them in the post.

Lennon also ended his international career after he received a death threat just hours before he was due to captain Northern Ireland in a home game against Cyprus in August 2002.

Now in his new role at Bolton, he has won four of his first six games and admits it's a "whole new challenge".

He accepts he is "no angel" but grew tired of what he says was people's failure to recognise that the abuse he received was actually sectarian.

Lennon was also the subject of an attack from a spectator as he stood on the touchline during a match against Hearts and had a public spat with another Northern Ireland international, former Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty.

He said: "It's brilliant at Bolton. I'm loving it. It's a great club.

"At times I didn't do myself any favours (in Glasgow). I am not saying I was an angel, but did I get a fair crack of the whip at times? No. Some of what was said about the difficulties I had was irresponsible. I found it personal.

"People wouldn't come out and say my treatment was sectarian.

"They said I brought it on myself. They hid behind that because they didn't want to admit it, but it was sectarian in the stadiums. That's what it was.

"People say, 'He brings it on himself... he is an aggressive manager'. But so are some other managers. So are some players.

"I was high-profile, I came for a lot of money as a player. For me, my job was being part of Martin O'Neill's team and to break the Rangers monopoly. We did that.

"When I came in again as manager, Walter Smith had won three-in-a-row and I had to do it again. Eventually we did.

"Nobody else had to go through situations and circumstances like I have been through. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through it.

"You would hope that all the nonsense that happened to me would serve as a watershed.

"The anticipation and the rivalry in Glasgow will probably never tire and I really enjoyed being part of it for a long time.

"There is part of me that misses it but a bigger part of me that doesn't."

Belfast Telegraph


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