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Neil Lennon was lucky not to lose an eye, says McCoist



Helpng hand: Neil Lennon is felled after being hit by a coin

Helpng hand: Neil Lennon is felled after being hit by a coin

Helpng hand: Neil Lennon is felled after being hit by a coin

Former Rangers boss Ally McCoist believes Neil Lennon was lucky not to lose an eye after a coin thrown by a Hearts fan struck the Hibs manager in Tuesday night's tempestuous 0-0 draw at Tynecastle in the Scottish Premiership.

Ex-Northern Ireland star Stephen Craigan labelled the incident as unacceptable and Lennon's agent Martin Reilly claimed that the former Celtic and Northern Ireland star is subjected to sectarian abuse every day in Scotland because he's an Irish Catholic who played for the Parkhead club.

The comments follow a shameful night for Scottish football with Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal floored by an apparent attack from a Hibs supporter in the Edinburgh derby before Lennon was hit by a coin seconds after celebrating when a late Hearts goal was disallowed. The Scottish FA also stated that two match officials were struck by objects.

The unsavoury events prompted Hearts and Hibs to issue a joint statement condemning the actions of those responsible, adding that when identified they would be banned from both Tynecastle and Easter Road. Lennon was fuming with what happened stating that he would like to meet the person who threw the coin.

McCoist and Craigan were working at the game for BT Sport and were dismayed as the disgraceful events played out.

"It was shocking. Neil is lucky not to lose an eye with an idiot throwing a coin," said ex-Rangers hero McCoist.

"This is a fantastic stadium because the fans are so close, and it can be an intimidating place to come to for away teams, but that said, because the fans are closer to the action and the playing surface it allows one or two idiots to do things that have no place in the game.

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"I cannot understand the stupidity of people throwing coins at a game of football."

Former Motherwell defender Craigan pointed out: "We want passion and commitment and we want supporters to bring noise and an atmosphere, but there has to be a respect for players on the pitch and managers.

"I know the Hearts fans in the main stand may say Neil Lennon was goading us but I'm sure Neil Lennon took some amount of abuse during the game. That's what happens.

"When Craig Levein goes to Easter Road he probably takes abuse.

"Somewhere along the line if he gives a little bit back it doesn't give anyone any kind of right to throw a coin and try and take his eye out and hit him in the face. If you are throwing a coin you are trying to hurt someone. That's out of order. It can't happen.

"Once you start getting involved with players and managers and start throwing things and objects, that is over the line and that cannot be acceptable."

Back in 2011, when in charge of Celtic, 47-year old Lennon was assaulted in the technical area at the same ground. In his time in Scottish football he has also been knocked unconscious in the street and sent viable parcel bombs as well as facing abuse from opposition supporters.

Reilly said that the Lurgan native has had to deal with being a target since making his Celtic playing debut against Dundee after moving from Leicester in 2000.

"Outside of football he is sectarian-abused every single day of his life, and it has been going on since he took the pitch at Dens Park that night," said Reilly.

"Neil has been victimised by this. He brings it on because he's Irish, he's Catholic, he played for Northern Ireland and he signed for Celtic. He had 39 games for Northern Ireland before he came to Celtic and wasn't abused once. As soon as he signed for Celtic, the game started.

"These things have to be taken out of our game very, very quickly or it's going to suffer. It (sectarianism) needs stamped out of Scottish football."

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