Alan Pattullo: Celtic banner was crass on so many levels, not least the timing

One has to hand it to whoever was responsible for the “Shoot the Board” banner that was hung up outside Celtic Park in midweek. They have a macabre sense of timing.
Protests outside Celtic Park have required a police presence (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)(Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Protests outside Celtic Park have required a police presence (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)(Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Protests outside Celtic Park have required a police presence (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)(Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The significance of the week might have been lost on them. If so, they certainly don’t know their history. The offensive banner appeared within 24 hours of the 40th anniversary of the day John Lennon was murdered outside his apartment in New York. It wasn’t possible to open a newspaper or go online without being reminded of that grim event.

And yet here were some Celtic fans threatening violence of a similar nature on members of a board at a club that have enjoyed a run of total domestic success in recent years. Opposition is fine. Protest – up to a certain point – is acceptable. In a typically well-judged response, Neil Lennon described the phrase employed as “dangerous rhetoric”.

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The Celtic manager earned some deserved relief on Thursday night with a deserved Europa League win against Lille. It followed almost two weeks of Celtic fans stewing over his future – and about club statements repeatedly backing him.

The dissent went up a notch on Wednesday when that banner briefly surfaced. We all say things we regret but this was daubed on a sheet, transported to Celtic Park and then hung up on a railing. The perpetrators had abundant time to consider their actions. They had every opportunity to reflect on the plight of Lennon, whose time in Scotland has been blighted by threats as flagrant as being sent bullets in the post as well as actual acts of physical violence. This hostility has taken a new form lately. The menace has come from within.

Many of them will be the same people rightly outraged by the sectarian treatment Lennon has had to put up with over the years. There have been candlelight vigils outside Celtic Park, in the same space now being patrolled by police when Celtic are at home for fear scenes seen following the loss to Ross County and draw with St Johnstone will be repeated.

When Graeme Souness is jumping to the defence of the Celtic manager, perhaps it’s time to reassess the level of venom being heaped on Lennon from a section of the Celtic support. “I find it upsetting,” the former Rangers manager said in an interview with The Scotsman earlier this week.

Lennon currently deserves to feel some satisfaction after the 3-2 win over Lille. No one will have worked harder to try and turn round results. Conor Hazard’s competent display means the manager has another decision to make about whether to retain him in goal against Kilmarnock tomorrow, thereby running the risk of further eroding the confidence of Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain.

It’s a dilemma but a better one than having to ponder what to do next if Hazard had proved out of his depth against Lille.

He has other decisions to make as well, just as potentially significant. Not least regarding what to do with skipper Scott Brown, also benched against Lille. A win over Kilmarnock and Lennon can begin to look forward to a Scottish Cup final against Hearts and the prospect of a quadruple treble. Happy Xmas, War is Over (maybe).

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