By Tom Macintyre | Guest Contributor
This is apparently a controversial opinion in some corners of the echo chamber that is Twitter but Club 1872 were absolutely correct to raise the behaviour of Neil Lennon at Ibrox on Saturday. The reaction of much of the Scottish press pack to the incident has completely vindicated the statement put out on Sunday despite the misgivings of some Rangers fans.
It might be helpful to establish a few facts first because, social media being what it is, some important points have been lost in the hysteria.
Club 1872 didn’t report Lennon to the police. That had already happened within an hour of the end of the game when police had taken statements from a significant number of Rangers supporters in the Enclosure and Main Stand at Ibrox.
Lennon wasn’t celebrating a goal. That’s something you do with your players, staff and your own fans. If your first thought when your team scores a goal is to turn and gesture to the opposing fans then it’s not about the goal. Had a Hibs player done exactly what Lennon did then the chances are they would have been sent off - although not perhaps if the referee was John Beaton.
The game was classified by the police as high risk due to previous issues, particularly the cup final. Lennon would have been spoken to by the police before the game. His club would also have been asked to warn their players and staff to behave responsibly. Now you can cry and moan about what on earth has football come to that this had to happen but those are the facts. It was a certainty the police would get involved after the game given their advice and concerns prior to it.
Predictably, the reaction from Hibs and Celtic supporters to Lennon being publicly called out has not been good. You can sense the horror that someone has actually had the gall to point out that Lennon spends most of his professional life acting like an idiot. Not just at Hibs, but at every club he's managed including Bolton. Guess who else didn’t like it being raised? Graham Spiers, Tom English, Barry Glendinning and Angela Haggerty. Are we seeing a pattern?
It has been the reaction of some Rangers supporters that has been puzzling and arguably incredibly naive. It is a very noble position to take - that we should all just man up and hurl abuse at each other at the football and then go about our business. Wouldn’t that be great? Sadly it totally ignores the environment in which Rangers and Rangers fans find themselves. By now, after all the concocted stories, outright lies and twisted facts you would think people would realise that.
There seems to be a school of thought that somehow Club 1872 prompted the media to defend Lennon. Or that mentioning Lennon has somehow taken away from the horrendous performance of John Beaton. Neither of these theories stands up to any scrutiny.
The Beaton issue will take care of itself. Rangers will appeal the red card and should certainly be informing the SFA of their displeasure with his inexplicably bad display. The press were never, ever going to criticise him to the same level that they have when the refereeing mistakes have been against Celtic - simply because Rangers were never going to make a public issue out of it the way Celtic have. You can argue back and forward whether that is the right approach but it’s a fact.
As far as Lennon is concerned, by Sunday morning and prior to any Club 1872 statement, Lennon was already being painted as the victim of his own actions. Derek McGregor, Mark Warburton’s favourite chew toy at the Scottish Sun, had written a back page defending Lennon’s actions and claiming that objects were thrown at him. He’d effectively accused the Rangers backroom staff of being funny foreigners who just didn’t understand Lenny’s wonderful banter with the crowd. Neil Cameron of the Herald had tweeted some justification of Lennon’s inflammatory gestures. Lennon himself had raised and justified his actions in the press conference after the game.
Lennon, his club and his press cheerleaders knew he was in trouble. His actions were clearly inflammatory. They were always going to attract police and SPFL attention. So the deflection had begun.
From a Rangers point of view, Pedro Caixinha was the first to mention Lennon’s behaviour. There were further press reports that Rangers staff had spoken to the police about Lennon, although it appeared more that the police had been prompted to move towards the dugout by Lennon’s idiotic behaviour.
All of this happened prior to Club 1872 saying anything. And here we get to where they possibly did make a mistake. They were ahead of most people in realising precisely how this would pan out. The police complaints and Rangers’ staff reaction to Lennon guaranteed the press would cover the story. With that also came the certainty that most of them would rush to Lennon’s defence.
Club 1872 could probably have waited until Tuesday or Wednesday when the inevitable opinion pieces would have been out, defending ‘Lenny’ and blaming the terrible persecution he has to suffer. By that time the same Rangers accounts now criticising them on Twitter would have been screaming for someone to intervene at the injustice of it all.
Instead they quickly made the point, correctly, that Lennon’s behaviour was inflammatory and in the context of everything that had gone before, irresponsible. It wasn’t about being offended - Club 1872 never mentioned being offended - although clearly the fans who reported Lennon to the police were.
And to those who say we should just shrug at Lennon’s behaviour? Why should someone’s daughter, or wife, or child be subjected to some ginger idiot firing ‘get it up ye’ gestures into their faces from yards away. Particularly someone who has previous for acting like a ned and being censured for it. And what if someone in the crowd had reacted? It’s not like they haven’t before. Do you think there would have been any mitigation from the press that Lennon should not have been acting how he did?
In certain quarters, although by no means all, the statement has been met with a slightly hipster, ‘against modern football', stiff upper lip reaction. Well guess what, this is modern football in Scotland whether we like it or not and as soon as Lennon made that gesture this chain of events was guaranteed.
Club 1872 have to operate in that environment whether we like it or not. They at least stopped it being a completely one sided love-in about poor, helpless Neil Lennon versus the big bad Rangers support. They should be commended for stepping up to the mark and at least putting across a view that nobody was ever going to see in the Scottish press otherwise. And if you still don’t get that then where have you been the last six years?