Neil Lennon seems to be forever surrounded by loaded devices in Glasgow. They range from the homemade letter bombs addressed to the Celtic manager that wound up with him giving evidence in Glasgow High Court yesterday to the questions he has to handle on a weekly basis from a smattering of dazed hacks struggling to digest what is going on elsewhere in the city.
The story of the day in Scottish football has nothing to do with Lennon nor his employers, but there remains an astonishing thirst to attach Celtic to items relating to Rangers, whether or not it is in the public interest.
The ability of some sections of the media in Scotland to sensationalise or falsify stories is quite staggering. Whether or not Lennon or his paymasters comment seems immaterial. A way will be found to try to drag Celtic into the financial fires that rage elsewhere in Glasgow.
A day before Rangers defeated Celtic 4-2 at Ibrox last September, the Daily Record printed a headline that read: "Who's more hated at Ibrox? Is it Lennon or the Taxman?" In hindsight, they could have replaced Lennon's bonce with the now vilified Rangers chairman Craig Whyte, but nobody appeared to be using their crystal ball to portray Whyte as some sort of pantomime villain less than six months ago.
Whyte was still being touted as a billionaire saviour with "wealth off the radar" in certain quarters until a BBC documentary began to scratch at the surface to discover a whole lot of stuff going on underneath Whyte's apparently monied exterior. It is in the public domain now, but was not brought to the masses by the written press.
Whyte and his apparent inability not to make good on his promises have left Rangers financially hamstrung. No other club or individuals running other clubs in Scotland are to blame.
The latest whopper to make its way to print saw the Daily Record claim Celtic had reneged on an agreement to pay Rangers £300,000 in advance for their match tickets ahead of the latest league meeting of the Glasgow sides on March 25 at Ibrox. The inference being that Celtic's actions could cost jobs at Rangers, a story that ended up being as preposterous as it sounded with Celtic issuing a strong-worded statement denouncing a fiction that came with no quotes.
There was no agreement to pay in advance, the conduct of Celtic did not threaten jobs at Rangers and there was no 'bust-up' between the clubs with the administrators of Rangers sending on tickets for the match under the rules of the Scottish Premier League. For good or bad, the latest match between Rangers and Celtic is pencilled in for March 25, a day that could yet see Celtic see out their first Scottish championship in four years.
The way matters have been unravelling at Rangers, Celtic would hardly have been out of order to withhold such a large sum with their neighbours in administration. The majority of Rangers fans have had to be given reassurances that the club's new fighting fund, set up to help in assisting the club's running costs, will not make its way into the pockets of the ostracised Whyte, who at the last public sighting was spotted somewhere in Canary Wharf.
Of course, there is a predictable amount of gloating among fans of rival Scottish clubs about Rangers's present difficulties, but this is commonplace among football supporters. Some of these clubs continue to wait on money due to them from the ashes of the shambles.
When Celtic were in danger of going bust in the early 1990s, there was plenty of guffawing among Rangers fans with chants of 'All you've got is your history' ringing out while Sir David Murray lorded it over their stricken foes during his club's sweep of nine straight Scottish flags. If Murray is sorry about selling Rangers to Whyte, he still has time to protect his legacy. Soundbites are easy to make. Rangers need financial assistance.
While all this has been going on, Celtic have been busy winning football matches. They have wisely kept a low profile with the club's chief executive Peter Lawwell pointing out that his club was self-sufficient. Lennon has extended his sympathy towards his Rangers counterpart Ally McCoist, but he has his own business to get on with as he focuses on winning three trophies in his second season as coach.
In the final analysis, Rangers's problems are of their own making. Or Murray's own making. It remains their business to attend to, even if it may take some time, months or years, before the truth is finally outed about who did what, where, why and when. And whether or not it was all done above board.
Celtic cancelled a pre-match press conference last Friday. There is a fair chance nothing good would have come of it. "There's a lot of muckraking going on between some hacks," said Lennon amid his side's 4-0 Scottish Cup win at Dundee United on Sunday. "There's going to be a lot of media outlets disappointed, because me and the players are not going to be speaking to you."
The former Manchester United and Scotland defender Gordon McQueen said yesterday that the demise of Rangers had made Scottish football a "laughing stock" . The embarrassment stretches to the way Lennon has been treated during his time in Scotland. He told the High Court he encounters sectarianism every week.
No other manager in the history of Scottish football has been so shabbily treated. Lennon would be just as well conveying his thoughts through the club's official channels, television and supporter websites. At least it would be one less problem to concern himself with.
- Sports & Recreation