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Lennon: Hearts got off easy over fan attack

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has admitted his disappointment that Hearts avoided disciplinary action over the touchline incident at Tynecastle that saw a supporter charged with assault.

The Scottish Premier League this week cleared both clubs over the fiery encounter on May 11 at Tynecastle, which also saw trouble and offensive singing in the stands.

The SPL stated that Hearts had taken all reasonable action before and since the game, where Lennon was approached by a supporter in the technical area before stewards moved in.

The SPL board noted that Hearts had taken the proper security precautions specified in their safety certificate and followed that up with a plan to increase the presence of stewards around the dug-out for the next visit of Celtic.

Lennon, speaking on his club's pre-season tour of Australia, said: “I think it was a big embarrassment for Hearts.

“It wasn't just British, it was worldwide — here I am in Australia talking about it.

“Hearts, according to the SPL, did everything they could from a security point of view.

“I'm a little bit disappointed with the outcome of that. But hopefully it's the tipping point, the stuff that happened last season.”

But the Celtic manager, who signed a new 12-month rolling contract earlier this month, admits he cannot guarantee there will not be another flashpoint with Old Firm rival Ally McCoist, who has since stepped up to replace Walter Smith as Rangers manager.

The pair were separated as they clashed after Celtic's Scottish Cup win over Rangers in March, a row that saw Lennon handed his second touchline ban of the season.

Lennon said: “It had been a very high voltage game.

“There was a lot going on, things I didn't like and things Ally didn't like, and we had a quiet word with each other after the game.

“It was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing but he is passionate about Rangers and I'm passionate about Celtic.

“We do have a responsibility this year to make sure these things don't go too far. I wouldn't say we're good friends but we're sociable enough to talk to each other after games now.

“We had a drink after the game and there was a lot of fall-out with the press for weeks on end, but there have been two Old Firm games since then and there's not been a bad word between us.

“But I can't guarantee there won't be a fall-out in the future because the passions run so high.”

Meanwhile, Celtic stepped up their summer recruitment drive yesterday as they closed in on deals to sign Kenya international Victor Wanyama and Israel striker Omer Damari.

The club confirmed they had agreed a fee with Belgian club Germinal Beerschot for Wanyama, who has also agreed personal terms. The 20-year-old defensive midfielder, who has 11 caps for Kenya, will sign subject to passing a medical and being granted a work permit.

Celtic will have to appeal to the SFA for a permit as an initial application will be automatically rejected as Kenya are not placed among the top 75 in the FIFA rankings.

Belfast Telegraph


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