Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SPL: Attack On Neil Lennon Overshadows Celtic Win


"It could be a stoater."

That's how I signed off my preview of tonight's Hearts v Celtic game.

We got a rather one sided 3-0 win for Celtic. We got two red cards as the referee stuck rigidly to the letter of the law.

And, above it all, we got someone from a home section of Tynecastle trying to attack Neil Lennon.

Other reports suggest trouble breaking out in elsewhere in the ground in an atmosphere widely described as "poisonous."

Jim Jefferies, who has seen more than most at Tynecastle over the years, said there "was something in the air, ready to kick off from the start."

A poisonous atmosphere is one thing. Disliking an opposing manager is part of the game. Combining that into a platform to try and assault someone? Well, I suppose that's just beyond my ken.

This season of woe and despair takes another lurch towards abject misery.

A lone attacker. An eejit. A lunatic. Whatever.

It seems too many of these idiots are currently feeding off a footballing atmosphere that is becoming more hysterically putrid with every passing week.

Given all that's happened this season I suppose we should be thankful that the assailant seemed to be held up as he approached Lennon. And that he didn't have any kind of weapon except his own brainless bampottery.

Again we ask ourselves how much of this Neil Lennon can possibly take before he walks away for his own safety?

Imagine that. Scottish football in 2011. And we might be looking at a man hounded from a job he loves because his personal safety is being compromised.

What does that say about Scottish football?

You don't have to pretend to be a fan of Lennon to realise that something is going horribly wrong here.

How can we persuade people back to the game, bring families to our stadiums, when a manager no longer seems to be safe inside or outside the ground.

Hearts, the SPL, the SFA and the police will launch investigations. Hearts, I suspect, will face severe censure.

But Lennon was only a leap and a sprint away from his attacker. Difficult to see what clubs can really do to stop people who see that intimacy - which should enhance the atmosphere at the game - as an invitation to go crazy.

Celtic's win set up another title deciding helicopter Sunday this weekend. But the front and back pages of the newspapers, the news and sport bulletins, won't be talking about that.

Instead we'll be reliving another disgraceful chapter in this toxic season.

Most of us just want it to end now. It stopped being anything like fun a long time ago. And amidst talk of the severity of the incident, of investigations and concern, the authorities don't seem to have any real sense of how they can prevent it.

Somehow Scottish football has descended into a morass where a minority - and thankfully it is a tiny minority that seems to either go to these extremes or condone them - think they are entitled to act like this.

Most of us are sickened by this kind of thing. Most of us love the game despite everything that's been thrown at us over the seasons and this new level of madness that we're being subjected to at the moment.

But how much longer can Scottish football be dragged through the gutter before we decide that this really isn't worth the hassle?

And where does the game go from there?