Celtic manager and Lurgan native Neil Lennon was forced to leave a Scottish football stadium on Saturday night after fans pelted him with coins and plastic cups.
Lennon, 42, was seated in the main stand at Tynecastle at the Scottish League Cup semi-final between Aberdeen and St Johnstone. The manager, who was sitting near Aberdeen fans, left the stadium 20 minutes before the end of the match.
Eyewitnesses seated near the manager said Lennon withstood almost an hour of verbal abuse. One said: “After listening to the abuse for some time, fans started throwing plastic cups and coins at him.”
It is understood that Tynecastle stewards then moved Lennon closer to the pitch, but projectiles continued to be thrown at him. Lennon then left the Edinburgh stadium and did not return. He had been watching the match along with Celtic first team coach Garry Parker and Billy Brown, assistant manager at Hearts.
The Celtic manager’s representative, Martin Reilly, said: “From the moment he took his seat, Neil was spat on, verbally abused, had coins thrown at him and eventually he had to leave. This is the second time that something has happened to Neil at Tynecastle, so there is obviously something wrong with the security. The last time it was on the pitch, and now he’s not even safe to sit in the stand. It’s absolutely unbelievable. This wouldn’t happen at any other stadium in Scotland.”
In 2011, a Hearts fan ran on to the Tynecastle pitch and assaulted Lennon. He was found guilty of a breach of the peace.
A spokesman for Celtic said: “Clearly it is totally unacceptable for the manager of Celtic to be treated in this way.”
Lennon received death threats as long ago as 2002, before he was due to captain Northern Ireland for the first time. He was the victim of an assault in Glasgow in 2008, before the Royal Mail intercepted packages addressed to him containing bullets last January. Two months later, he was among three high-profile figures associated with Celtic who were sent parcel bombs.