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I'll defend innocent Brown all the way, insists boss Lennon

 

Boiling over: Andy Halliday and Scott Brown clash after Celtic’s victory over Rangers
Boiling over: Andy Halliday and Scott Brown clash after Celtic’s victory over Rangers

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon claims the Scottish Football Association disciplinary charges handed to Celtic skipper Scott Brown over the scenes which followed their win over Rangers are "trumped up".

Brown, struck by both Alfredo Morelos - who was sent off - and Ryan Kent during last Sunday's Ladbrokes Premiership game, has been accused of breaching a rule which states players must act in the best interests of football.

Andy Halliday received a second yellow card post-match for remonstrating with the Celtic midfielder over his celebrations in front of the Rangers fans after a 2-1 win that stretched the Hoops' lead over the Light Blues to 13 points at the top of the table.

The Gers midfielder's approach to Brown, and the ensuing struggle, sparked a mass confrontation that resulted in both clubs receiving SFA charges.

Interim boss Lennon said of Brown's situation: "I just think it is a trumped-up charge. It is something that has been made up.

"There is a law out there, from what I can gather, that you can't retrospectively be punished for gestures but it is not even an obscene gesture, raising his hands aloft.

"It has just been concocted because of media pressure, or pressure from elsewhere. Scott Brown doesn't have to reproach himself for anything.

"The club and myself will defend Scott vigorously on any charges because he has done very little, or nothing wrong."

The former Celtic captain was in a forthright mood at the club's Lennoxtown training complex ahead of the visit of Livingston today and claimed to have "no idea" of the exact accusations levelled at Brown.

The Ulsterman said: "It maybe will all come out in the wash if he has to go to Hampden.

"I think it is a massive deflection, all the noise this week about Scott.

"Our players handled the game brilliantly and some of the opposition players did not. It is as simple as that. People are trying to drag Scott into this.

"Players here handle themselves with great humility and respect the opposition."

It also emerged yesterday that Brown avoided punishment for standing on James Kellerman's stomach during the midweek clash with St Mirren.

Lennon also targeted Rangers boss Steven Gerrard who, after the match, questioned the Celtic skipper's celebrations in front of the 800 or so away fans.

Rangers unsuccessfully appealed Kent's retrospective two-match ban for knocking Brown to the ground, on which Gerrard remarked: "We don't think it was violent conduct, and we don't think it was in the face."

In response, Lennon said: "The only rational thing Steven said this week, from what I have seen, is his team played the best team in the country on Sunday.

"Apart from that, I disagree with probably 90 per cent of what he has spoken about since the game.

"I didn't see him after the game.

"I thought he might have come in but he might have had other things to do. Of course, he was invited."

The Hoops boss was "100 per cent" surprised that Rangers chose to appeal Kent's suspension.

He said: "It was so blatant. My only surprise is he got two games and not three.

"It was violent conduct, whether it be a punch or... you just can't do that, and again Scott Brown is said to be the antagonist or provocateur, and he wasn't at all."

Turning to today's game, Lennon said: "Livingston have had a fantastic season and they can give you a bloody nose.

"But we know what's at stake - we need two wins to win the league."

Celtic vs Livingston

Scottish Premiership:

Parkhead, Today, 3pm

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