Coverage of Neil Lennon’s press conference was curated to show the manager angry and apparently confused about the health of his squad. The reason for his anger was omitted from the snippets available online yesterday afternoon, then mocked by those who should know better.
Neil clearly explained what upset him (full transcript from GlasgowLive). The country is following medical advice to maintain a 2m social distance. Football has followed this rule and it was the determining factor in isolating Ryan Christie and Kieran Tierney when they were within 2m of infected Stuart Armstrong with Scotland in October. Only Christie and Tierney had to isolate as the rest of the squad were not within 2m of Armstrong for any period of time.
Clubs across the UK have made travel arrangements accordingly, keeping a 2m distance between players where possible, or accepting the risk if packing them in any tighter. The 2m rule has been absolute and continues to feature in public health adverts.
What happened politically after Celtic left for Dubai is why you saw an angry Celtic manager yesterday.
On 5 January, Nicola Sturgeon used her daily PR conference to reference photographs of Celtic players in Dubai poolside, and while admitting she had no actual information to backup what she was saying, questioned if Celtic were following her rules. Celtic were following the rules, but that is irrelevant to the Show Trial the First Minister launched.
As Neil Lennon explained, the Scottish Government turned on Celtic, creating a brand new 3m rule for them, while every other club in Scotland with a positive case has been asked to observe a 2m rule.
This is the reason our number of excluded players was as high for the Hibs and Livi games. It is the reason we were subsequently forced to keep players 3m apart when travelling, or 3 players to a 52 seater bus. The rule change was not announced by the First Minister at her PR conferences and has not been forced on any other club, it was delivered below the radar on a vulnerable club with a baying mob (including former players who care nothing for us) ready to lap it up.
Despite the acres of gorging media coverage, no one has solicited a comment on Neil’s claim from the Scottish Government. The Celtic manager appears in front of the country’s media to explain how the Government apply one rule to Celtic and another to the rest of the country, and the headlines are all about his anger! Do you want Tony ‘Take it on the chin’ instead?
The First Minister is on the hook for this. She promised action on Celtic despite knowing they followed her rules, and she followed through with this 3m punishment. It keeps eyes away from her day job. But Neil did the inverted commas sign and he’s having a nightmare season, so some would rather mock, speculate about his mental health or drinking habits. I hope it’s worth the clicks.
Maybe my views were forged when the SFA’s Jim Farry had one rule for Celtic and another for everyone else, but I think the only acceptable reaction to this from a Celtic manager or supporter is seething anger. This is no different in execution or consequence.