Neil Lennon has accused Nicola Sturgeon of using a “different tack” when speaking about Covid issues at Celtic as opposed to at other clubs.
Scotland’s first minister used broad terminology in discussion about five Rangers players who breached protocols by attending a flat party last weekend, including saying: “Can I say to football, and sport generally: please, make sure your house is in order.” Two other Rangers players were guilty of similar offences late last year. “I don’t care whether it’s Celtic, Rangers or any other club,” Sturgeon also said this week.
Celtic were heavily criticised by Sturgeon and others for taking on a January training break in Dubai. Celtic and Aberdeen had fixtures postponed early in the season after the misdemeanours of squad members.
“There just seemed to be a different tack to when she was speaking about us,” said Celtic’s manager. “The fact she brought us into the answer [about Rangers] sort of baffled me as well. I think we as a club have been treated differently from other clubs and other parts of society as well.
“I said all I needed to say after Dubai. I said it smacked of hypocrisy and I am not changing from that.”
Sturgeon has consistently warned about special dispensation given to football so that it could continue. “I think the talk of privilege is overplayed,” Lennon said. “I think 95% in football have adhered to the rules and protocols.”
When asked whether an apparent difference between the treatment of various clubs was “odd” Lennon replied: “Odd? Hypocritical. I could use a lot of words. But I’m not going to because I don’t want the story to be about me. I have come out and called it as I saw it and people have thrown all sorts back at me. But my conscience was clear at the time and still is. I don’t want to take the government on again but you can tell there is a bit of discontent there.”
Celtic’s Sunday evening trip to Dingwall to face Ross County will see players and staff make the 360-mile round trip on five buses to comply with Scottish football’s pandemic rules. “It is strange, but I’m not complaining about it,” Lennon said. “I’m happy that football’s going ahead.”
Less appealing to Lennon is the prognosis on his centre-back Christopher Jullien. The 27-year-old is likely to miss the early part of next season because of an estimated return timeframe of six to nine months after surgery three weeks ago.