"I was raging"; Neil Lennon still fuming at pundit for Celtic comments

By Euan Davidson

June 15, 2021

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon has taken aim at Andy Walker and the Scottish media.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Euro Breakfast Show, Lennon detailed his take on the fall-out from the ill-fated Dubai trip. As if you need a reminder: Celtic travelled out to the Middle East during a pandemic. It didn’t end well, with 13 players and 3 members of staff having to quarantine afterwards [BBC].

Andy Walker, on Sky Sports, tore into the incident prior to Celtic’s kick-off against Hibernian [Sky Sports]. Describing the trip as “unbelievably arrogant”, the ex-Celtic striker has drawn criticism of his own from Neil Lennon, six months on.

Lennon said [BBC Radio Scotland]:

“Me, Peter [Lawwell], the players and the club were hung out to dry. We went out with the best intentions to go to Dubai. Whether people think it was the best decision to do that, or not…

“The way it was perceived was somebody taking a photograph of us lounging around the pool… This perception we were out there having a great time, drinking all day, sitting by the pool having cocktails, Andy Walker called it a “jolly”, that made my blood boil. They were just coming at us for all the wrong reasons.

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“At any time, the Government could’ve said “look, we don’t think this is a good idea, blah blah blah, stay here”. None of that was forthcoming, so we took the opportunity to go out and work in an environment for a week that would’ve benefitted us for the second half of the season. As it has done in the previous three of four seasons.

“But the fall-out from it was ridiculous. The way we were basically punished… sixteen of us then having to quarantine.”

“I was raging”; Neil Lennon still unhappy with Celtic criticism

Lennon continued [BBC Radio Scotland]:

“I was raging. Don’t forget I had 10 days in the house. Watching everyone have an opinion, watching everyone speculate, watching everyone put the boot into the club, and the players, and our decision to go. So yeah, I had to come back out and give my side, my perspective of it. And I totally disagreed with a lot of people’s viewpoints on it.

“And I still do, to this day.

“I look at what Scotland did. It was no different from us, to go out to a training camp in a pandemic. John Fleck gets Covid, 6 players can’t play against Holland, what’s the difference between what they did and what we did?

“I wasn’t 100% sure it was the best idea to do it, but we’d taken all the precautions beforehand and made sure we had all the right things in place to go.”

Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, Dubai bound / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Our take: Dubai was a needless waste that made our season worse

Oh, Neil.

From one perspective, he’s right to defend himself and the club, especially if there were no issues with the Government. But come on.

Yes, this has all been covered before. Still, it’s the first time Lennon has spoken about it with hindsight, and fair play to him for being so strong-minded, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that it was in any way worthwhile. Dubai may have worked before, but the circumstances were entirely different, and it was disrespectful to supporters.

Whether or not the Scotland scenario is similar is your prerogative; it does seem needless in hindsight when Scotland is hardly lacking for top-class football facilities. So, maybe he has a point there, but flying to Spain and flying across to the Middle East are vastly different.

Lennon does have a right to reply, however. And while the pints by the pool were a bad look after a Glasgow Derby defeat, he’s allowed to defend his and the club’s actions. It’s just that they don’t look any better in hindsight.

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