Neil Lennon’s forthcoming autobiography will contain, amongst other things, his reflections on the period where he was forced to stop playing for Northern Ireland. An extract is published in the Guardian today – given how much the rest of us talk about what happened to him, it’s probably worth reading his views!
“From the moment I went on to that pitch to play against Norway I was the target of an unremitting chorus of abuse. In a half-empty stadium, the noise seemed to amplify and at times it seemed as though it was the only sound to be heard. Deep down, it was the sheer scale of things which upset me. Later, people would try to play down what happened, saying it was only a minority in the crowd who had hurled abuse. There wasn’t a massive crowd at the game, maybe 7,000 or so, and the minority might only have been 500 or 600, but to me the proportion booing me didn’t matter – one per cent would have been too much.
“Now I have been booed and jeered many times – just about every time I play for Celtic away from home. I had heard anti-Catholic songs being sung at Windsor Park internationals before but, like most Catholic players, played on and ignored them. The fact is you do not mind being booed by the opposition fans or even your own supporters if you are having a stinker. But this was something else again and was, I believe, completely premeditated. I had played 35 times for my country before that night and had a good relationship with most fans, who knew I gave my all for Northern Ireland. So what had happened to make things so different? Answer: I now played for Celtic.”