Neil Lennon believes that things have to change at international level after the farce that has involved his Celtic players this week.
The Hoops boss has watched on as three of his players have picked up positive tests for Covid. He’s also had to take in news that Ryan Christie can’t play against Rangers this weekend due to being deemed a close contact of positive-testing Stuart Armstrong.
Nir Bitton and Hatem Elhamed both picked up the virus with Israel, whilst there remains massive doubt over whether Odsonne Edouard will feature given his own self-isolation period ends a day before the game.
And it’s clear that Lennon has been growingly frustrated this week as the bad news had come barraging down on him. Speaking to Sky Sports, the Celtic boss said the following:
OLD FIRM PREVIEW@CelticFC manager Neil Lennon says the football authorities must look at how to manage player safety around Covid-19 during international windows
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) October 15, 2020
“It can’t go on the way it’s going because we’re losing too many players. Not just us but a lot of other clubs as well. Even countries. If you look at the Czech Republic in the previous round they had completely changed the squad – it totally dilutes the quality and integrity of the competition.
“It’s very difficult for me to say ‘look you’re not going to go away to play for your country’. That’s something I would never want to do to a player, but these are unprecedented times and we are in a very, very difficult situation.
“Ideally we don’t want them to travel but we’re not going to point the finger at them and say ‘you can’t go’.”
Lennon hits the right notes
The manager is spot on here, and with absolutely everything he says too.
He backs the idea that something needs to be done at international level. He won’t have anyone disagreeing with him here. The fact that players are around to circumnavigate Europe despite the threat of the virus is absolutely incredible. It really does fire a slap on the face of international law.
However, it’s interesting that the Celtic boss said here that he won’t stand in the way of players going to play for their countries. Despite the positive tests we’ve had to deal with this week ahead of a packed schedule, Lennon still isn’t for hauling players back.
Yet whilst some may think we should do just that as an employer – it just isn’t practical if you want to keep morale and relationships up. For example, if you go up to the likes of Mohamed Elyounoussi and Kris Ajer and tell them ‘you’re not going away with Norway’. Look at things from their perspective – they would likely be absolutely infuriated.
The last thing Celtic need at the moment is an unhappy dressing room. Not this season. So it’s clear that we can expect no real changes with regards to Celtic’s resistance on this for next month.
But Lennon is correct to take that very stance. Anything else risks the wrath of both the players involved and indeed UEFA/FIFA.