Lennon says Bhoys won’t pressurise rookie ref

NEIL LENNON insists Celtic are not putting any extra pressure on Old Firm debut referee Willie Collum ahead of tomorrow’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Rangers at Parkhead.

The Celtic boss is still disgruntled about referee Dougie McDonald’s controversial decision to award the Hoops a penalty in last week’s win over Dundee United at Tannadice, then change his mind after consulting with his assistant.

Lennon also pointed back to last October when Celtic, under Tony Mowbray, were denied a penalty against Rangers at Ibrox by Craig Thomson, who later admitted his mistake, and to the goal Marc-Antoine Fortune had chalked off against Rangers at Parkhead in January by Steve Conroy. However, the former Celtic skipper is simply looking for a “strong game” from the rookie ref.

“I would say that refereeing an Old Firm game at any time is difficult but when it is your first one, he might be a wee bit extra nervous,” Lennon said.

“I just hope he has a strong game.

“We felt aggrieved at some of the decisions that went against us last year so we are hoping that he has a good game and makes the right decisions at the right moments.

“We are not putting any extra pressure on him, from our point of view. We don’t want to do that.

“We just hopes that he starts from scratch and sees the game as it is.”

In a fixture that will added intensity due to the fact that both sides have won their first eight SPL games, Lennon could have half a dozen players at least also making their Old Firm debuts.

However, he admits there is little he can say which will prepare them for tomorrow’s showdown.

“No matter what words of advice you give them, it can’t replicate playing the game and being in that atmosphere and the intensity of that whole arena,” he said.

“When I made my debut Martin O’Neill said to me it would be a blur and he was right.

“Nothing prepares you for an Old Firm game, they definitely are a special game in the calendar and there is just a wee bit more riding on this one because of the start both teams have made.

Despite Celtic being at home, Lennon insists the Ibrox men, who lead the table on goal difference, go into the game as favourites.

“Outsiders will probably make Rangers the favourites with the way they have played in Europe as well as the SPL,” the former Leicester midfielder said.

“But I don’t think there is much between the teams.

“I think they have been very impressive. I think they play more football at times than people give them credit for, they have good individual players and they work hard for each other.’’

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox