SPL - Man charged over Lennon attack

Thu, 12 May 18:51:00 2011

A man suspected of attacking Celtic manager Neil Lennon during his team's match against Hearts appeared in court on Thursday charged with assault.

- 0

Lennon, who has received death threats in the past and was sent a bullet in the post on Thursday, was attacked near the dugout by a fan who ran from a stand housing Hearts' supporters during Wednesday's game before being wrestled away.

The incident occurred shortly after Gary Hooper scored Celtic's second goal four minutes into the second half of the match in Edinburgh which the Glasgow side eventually won 3-0.

John Wilson, 26, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court where he was charged with breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice and assault aggravated by religious prejudice. He was remanded in custody.

Wilson was later banned for life by Hearts, who said they had taken the "severest action open to set the strongest possible deterrent.

"While not wanting to prejudge the outcome of the court case, all true Hearts fans will have been disgusted by what they witnessed," the statement added.

The attack was the latest in a succession of serious incidents involving Lennon, which have raised concerns about religious bigotry and sectarian violence particularly between fans of Celtic and their Glasgow city rivals Rangers.

The acrimony between Celtic, who have a predominantly Catholic fan base and Rangers, whose supporters are mainly Protestant, is long-running and deep-seated.

"Last night's appalling attack on Neil Lennon brings shame on Scottish football and again highlights the fact that Scottish society must address fundamental and serious issues which lead to outrages of this kind," Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said in a statement.

On Thursday a package had arrived at the club's home ground which appeared to contain ammunition, Lawwell added.

Media reports said it was another bullet which had been addressed to Lennon, a Northern Irish Catholic.

In January, packages, posted in Northern Ireland, containing bullets were sent to the Celtic manager and one of the team's players.

"Since moving here a decade ago, Neil Lennon has had to endure prejudice and violence both as a player and manager, having suffered no such problems elsewhere," Lawwell said.

Meanwhile police said two men had been detained in connection with an investigation into parcel bombs sent to Lennon, and two of the club's high profile fans.

Strathclyde Police said the men aged 41 and 43, were detained under the Explosives Substances Act 1883 after officers made dawn raids on a number of properties in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, southwest Scotland.

Last month police detectives said the parcel bombs could have caused "real harm".

Assistant manager Johan Mjallby told Celtic's official website (www.celtic.fc.net) that Lennon had been shocked by Wednesday's incident.

"It's a disgrace," he said. "He's had death threats and he's shaken right now. I have never seen anything like it.

"Neil's a strong character and he's coped with a lot this season and has still been able to work with this team and improve it, so we'll have to wait and see how he feels, but we're all desperate for him to continue doing his work."

Reuters / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account