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Rangers striker David Healy sympathises with Celtic boss Neil Lennon

By Steven Beacom

Bitter rivalry exists between the Old Firm clubs, but David Healy admits he has sympathy for Celtic boss Neil Lennon.

Once Northern Ireland team-mates, the pair had an amiable meeting before Sunday’s derby which ended in a memorable victory for Rangers.

By the time the match had finished though Lennon’s mood had changed. He was fuming after referee Calum Murray told him that he couldn’t take his place in the dug-out for the second half after criticising the official’s first half performance.

Lennon is now facing a Notice of Complaint from the Scottish Football Association concerned about his behaviour.

It’s not the first time the Lurgan man has been in trouble with the authorities.

Healy said: “You have to remember that in matches like an Old Firm derby passions run high.

“I don't know what was said in the tunnel but Lenny's a major figure in Scottish football and maybe he doesn't get away with things that others can.”

While Lennon did not have an enjoyable Sunday afternoon, another Ulsterman, Rangers ace Andrew Little, savoured the best day of his footballing life, scoring seconds after his introduction from the bench in the 3-2 victory.

“I was really pleased for Andy because he has had a tough time with injuries,” said the former Manchester United, Fulham and Sunderland striker.

“He works hard on a daily basis and it was brilliant for him to come on as a substitute and score with his first touch in an Old Firm match. I know just how much it meant to Andy and right now, as you would expect, he's buzzing.”

Little, Kyle Lafferty, who made his return from injury at the weekend, Steve Davis and Healy could all play key roles for Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers later this year.

Last month when Healy came on as a late substitute in Michael O'Neill's first match as Northern Ireland boss — the 3-0 friendly defeat at home to Norway — he became the country's most capped outfield player.

He has now played 92 times at international level and that, added to his record 35 goals, will forever see him regarded as a Windsor Park icon.

The man known as King David, though, is not finished yet and is relishing winning more caps for his country.

“I spoke to Michael after the Norway game and he said he wanted to see Martin Paterson, who hadn't played much under the previous manager Nigel Worthington, and have a good look at him for 60 or 70 minutes. Watching the game, I thought Martin and Dean Shiels were doing pretty well up front so I can understand the decision,” said Healy.

“I was glad to get the chance to come on in the second half to play again for my country at Windsor Park. I never tire of that. It's just a pity the result didn't go our way. I don't think the 3-0 scoreline reflected the game.

“Now we have to look forward to our next match, in Holland in June. I'll be there and then we have another friendly at home to Finland in August before the World Cup qualifiers start. I want to be and am determined to be part of that campaign.

“I just hope people are realistic when we start the group matches in September and not expect us to qualify. We have two outstanding teams in our group in Portugal and Russia, who will be favourites to fight it out at the top, and then there is Israel who are a decent side as well. Azerbaijan won't be easy either so it will be a real challenge for us. But it’s one that I'm looking forward to.”

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