Lennon: I didn't fuel match-official row

Lennon: I didn't fuel match-official row

Neil Lennon hit back at Walter Smith for suggesting the Parkhead club initiated a controversy-filled season by questioning the authority of match officials.

Smith‘s last game in charge of Rangers was last Sunday’s 5-1 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park which secured the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title by one point from their Old Firm rivals.

The 63-year-old began his retirement by claiming he was pleased to be leaving Scottish football, believing Celtic’s fractious relationships with both match officials and the Scottish Football Association overshadowed the whole season.

But Lennon told the Daily Record: “I think he’s wrong, he’s totally wrong.”

Earlier in the week Celtic defender Mark Wilson had also disputed Smith’s claims saying: “We were right to defend ourselves in the way we did.”

Wilson referred back to the infamous October 17 clash at Dundee United, when Celtic had a penalty controversially rescinded in their 2-1 win and the subsequent fallout led to referee Dougie McDonald admitting he had lied to Lennon.

McDonald eventually resigned which set off a chain of events leading to a strike in November by Scottish officials.

Asked what he thought of Smith’s comments, Lennon said: “I don’t think a lot of it at all. I was disappointed by it.

“He could have spoken to me about it first. He had plenty of opportunities to do that. I didn’t think there was any real need for it either. Mark Wilson hit the nail on the head earlier this week.

“Listen, I went to the referee’s room and the guy didn’t tell me the truth. Then his assistant came out two days later and blew the whistle on him. I didn’t, our club didn’t. They did.

“Then there were cover-ups and non-truths. It led me to think, ’Well, I’m not the first Celtic manager not to be told the truth.’

“You know, I wasn’t even going to go in to the room that day. It was the SPL match delegate who told me to go in and get a clarification on it.

“Again, our club were just looking for transparency. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for. I mean, you being lied to.

“It’s not even a major lie, but it just grew and grew and grew into something they created themselves.”

Lennon refused to accept the implication that he personally was to blame.

“Have I done that?” he said. “Have I fuelled it? What set the tone? So if another manager had gone in and the whole thing got exposed, would they be pleased about it? Would they?”

Lennon insists he will continue to fight for what be believes is right.

“If I see unfairness or something I don’t think is right, then I will speak up about it,” he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that. If any other manager wants to do it for his club, then I don’t see anything wrong with that either.

“If I get criticised for it, fine. You get criticised for doing things as the Celtic manager anyway. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

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