Neil Lennon 'fed up of laughing off racism' - Hibernian boss' comments in full

Q: You've had almost 48 hours to analyse what happened at Tynecastle. Have you any further thoughts on what went on?

"No, I got hit by a coin in the face by someone in the crowd. Not happy with some of the comments that have come out afterwards, people should know better.

"It's pretty poor, all this, I was goading people, I bring it on myself. There was effigy outside Tynecastle saying, 'hang Neil Lennon' before the game. Did I bring that on myself? I'm asking you. You're all saying no. You're right because you're right-minded, decent people. This has got to stop. Everyone says I play the victim - I don't.

"I had 15 years in England of nothing. The first day I stepped into Scotland this sort of stuff has begun. It's not because I'm an aggressive character - you all know me, I'm not an aggressive person at all. I'm competitive, sometimes I cross the line, just like any normal manage. This 'bringing it on himself', I'm very angry about those comments."

Q: Does the fact you are Catholic, Northern Irish and played for Celtic fuel the abuse?

"Yes, 100%. Everyone tries to skirt round it, that's the basis of it, has been since 2000, the first day I stepped onto a pitch at Windsor Park as a Celtic player I was booed every time I touched the ball, having previously played 36 times and had nothing. No question in my mind that was the reasoning behind it.

"You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism. If a black man is abused, you're not just abusing the colour of his skin - you're abusing his culture, heritage, background. It's the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people with the sense of entitlement, the superiority complex, all I do is stand up for myself."

Q: What can the authorities do?

"I'm not a politician - you're asking the wrong person. I've been subjected to this for 18 years. I'm 47, I'm fed up with it. I'm the manager of Hibs now and I'm still getting it in a derby. Whether that isolated incident is sectarian-motivated or not, that effigy outside the ground before the game is sectarian or racist or whatever you want to call it. Hanging people is something the Ku Klux Klan did in the 60s to black people so maybe that's the mentality of people who want to write this stuff.

"The first time I signed for Celtic there was an effigy in Lisburn saying, 'Neil Lennon RIP'. That's to do with my association with Celtic and me being an Irish Catholic."

Q: What does it say about Scottish society?

"There's a big problem. You all turn your back on it, laugh about it, brush it aside - it's right there. I keep hearing these, 'one Scotland', 'we're a democracy', which we are, 'we're open to everyone' - at times that hasn't been the case for me. And I'm a footballer, I'm not a criminal. I don't go around throwing bricks and stones and bottles at people, attacking people in the streets. I don't break the law, I try and do a good job and put on teams who entertain.

"I try to win things, I am competitive, but I will not take any nonsense from people. Why should I? Maybe I'm the first one to stand up for myself in a long, long time. But there are people before me who were Irish and played for Celtic who took a hell of a lot of abuse but maybe weren't as prominent or didn't have the voice or the platform that I have these days."

Q: What's it like being Neil Lennon living in Scottish society? Are there things you experience that we don't see?

"At times, yes. But there's been a litany of assaults and other things. Why? Because I'm a football manager. But people will be blinkered and say, 'it's his fault, he's aggressive'. I'm reactive.

"Once I step out into the stadium they're already up to fever pitch because I'm walking in there. I don't need to wind anybody up. People say you have the responsibility - Les Gray [former Scottish Police Federation chairman] saying I nearly incited a riot.external-link What a lot of crap. Way off-beam, irrelevant and totally missing the point and I'm not sure he's speaking on behalf of the police authorities."

Q: Will you be uncomfortable going back to Tynecastle?

"No. I've never felt uncomfortable going into a football ground.

"I'll feel a lot safer [for the next Edinburgh derby] at Easter Road than at Tynecastle, put it that way."

Q: Should the clubs take extra security measures before the next Edinburgh derby?

"They probably will but first of all we need to get the perpetrators who, one, assaulted Bobby Zlamal, two, threw coins onto the pitch, and not just at me, but at the assistant linesman. Did he bring it on himself? Did Marvin Bartley bring it on himself? Did Bobby Zlamal bring it on himself? Why do I bring it on myself then when people attack or throw things at me?

"This is the mentality that needs to change. It's embarrassing. Does it make angry? Yeah, it makes me very angry. But I'm just one person and I need more people to come out and call it as it really is.

"I'm fed up of laughing it off and shoving it aside because I'm 47 now, a father and a grandfather, I don't need this in a footballing arena. People abuse you to the hilt, everybody gets it at times but I think certainly in my case, and I'm not crying over spilt milk because I get on with it and I've been successful through it, I think I get it a lot worse than most people do."

Watch: Hearts' Zlamal claims he was 'punched'

Q: Would you think about walking away?

"Yeah. I've thought about walking away when I was manager of Celtic. Again, with all the furore and all the empty vessels talking after Wednesday, people spouting opinions and totally getting the wrong end of things, I may reconsider my position again.

"I had a career in England unblemished by this sort of stuff. I had two years at Bolton [as manager] - again, no abuse, no attacks, no suspensions, nothing like that - but as soon as I come back into Scotland it starts to rear its ugly head again."

Q: Does Scotland need to wake up to this problem?

"Wake up? It's there right in front of you. Every week, we hear the songs at the stadiums. That's got to be stamped out. People don't want to do it - there's 40,000 people in that stadium, 60,000 in that stadium, we can't do anything about it. You can, if you really want to.

"I'm not the only one to suffer from sectarian abuse. Plenty of players at Rangers suffer from it as well. And I think it's disgusting in this day and age. It's racism. You call it sectarianism, I'll call it racism."

Q: Did it surprise you the problem was this bad when you came to Scotland?

"Yeah. Sometimes it's worse here than it is back home."

Q: There are television pictures going around the world from Wednesday. What do they tell the world about Scottish football?

"I'm not taking my focus away from what I'm trying to do here at Hibs. This is a 48-hour thing I have to contend with again and it may linger on for a bit longer.

"But the game is good in the main, there are good people in the game, good managers, good players, it shouldn't be sullied by the acts of… sometimes you say mindless, and sometimes it's premeditated and they know exactly what they're doing, and the sooner we get the people caught, punished severely, embarrassed publicly, then it might deter other people from thinking the same way."

Q: Is it time for Scottish football to introduce strict liability?

"I think that's very difficult. Again, I don't blame Hearts directly. It's the actions of an individual. But there are a lot of good Hearts supporters that I know. There are a lot of good Rangers supporters that I know. It's the mentality and sense of entitlement and, how dare I come into their stadium and react aggressively to provocation. That's what I have to stand up for.

"Over-exuberance from me? A little bit, but, sit down, you're not getting your goal. I think it would have been an incredible injustice on my team, the way we'd played and had to put up with being down to 10 men for a long period in a very intimidating and difficult place to go. I thought we were outstanding.

Q: Hearts midfielder Peter Haring feared future derby games could be played behind closed doors.external-link

"No, that's not the answer. You're punishing the clubs, you're punishing 99% of the supporters and you're punishing the players and me as well. We certainly don't want that. We want people to go enjoy the game - yeah, get angry, but be right-minded, I don't think it's a lot to ask.

Q: Would you think twice about having your family attend games?

"No, they go to every game. They've seen worse. They've seen me getting attacked."

Q: On BBC Radio Scotland, former Celtic defender Gary Caldwell said you "bring a lot of it" on yourself [he has since sought to clarify those remarks]. Was it particularly disappointing to hear that from a former team-mate?

"It doesn't matter that he's a former team-mate, just disappointing that mode of thought. He's tried to retract the statement, he knows he's made a huge mistake. I've spoken to people at Partick Thistle and I'm absolutely fine with them and I hope he learns from it.

"He should, because he's totally wrong. He's tried to get in touch with me, it was a long day yesterday, but I've spoken to Jackie Low and Gerry Britton and we keep that good relationship between the clubs and me personally with them on that level."

Q: Would it be a shame if managers cannot interact with fans?

"If we do that, you lose something from the game. People want to know what managers are doing. Jose Mourinho, quite rightly, after getting abused by Chelsea fans, gives it that. Was that banter or provocation? I don't see people throwing things at him and he's every right to do that because of what he did for that club.

Q: Why does football seem to be a vehicle for this type of behaviour?

"Just working class, it's the people's game, the game comes from the streets and we want to keep it that way. We want the rawness, the noise, the tribalism and the fanaticism, but we don't want violence or people getting hurt in stadiums - that should be the safest place for us as staff and players to be."

Q: How difficult is it to prepare for Saturday's visit of St Johnstone?

"Just like every other game between a Wednesday and a Saturday. The players were off yesterday and we've done a little bit of work today and we know we've got a very difficult game coming up because St Johnstone under Tommy Wright are absolutely flying again.

"While I have to deal with this line of questioning again, my focus and the players' focus will be on the game tomorrow."

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport