Celtic back O'Neill's show of defiance as SFA considers action

The Celtic executive director Peter Lawwell has shown his support for Martin O'Neill, following what he called "hysterical" criticism of the manager.

The Celtic executive director Peter Lawwell has shown his support for Martin O'Neill, following what he called "hysterical" criticism of the manager.

The Scottish Football Association is still waiting for the referee Kenny Clark's report into Saturday's explosive Old Firm derby, in which two Celtic players were sent off. That could include retrospective red cards for further players from both Celtic and Rangers following a game marred by flashpoints. But O'Neill could also find himself in trouble with the SFA for striding on to the Ibrox pitch following their 2-0 defeat and defiantly parading Neil Lennon to the Celtic supporters while shaking his fist.

Lennon is the player Rangers fans love to hate and O'Neill claimed he was simply showing that his fellow Northern Irishman is loved by the Celtic faithful, no matter what abuse he receives from other clubs' supporters. But the fist-shaking gesture could be interpreted as inflammatory following a game which produced plenty of controversy during the 90 minutes.

But Lawwell was quick to defend O'Neill. He said: "I am astonished at the reaction in some quarters to the events at Ibrox Park on Saturday. Our manager Martin O'Neill has been on the receiving end of criticism which can only be described as hysterical.

"Martin's conduct throughout his four and a half years in charge at Celtic has been nothing short of exemplary, and his contribution, not only to Celtic, but to the progress of Scottish teams in Europe, is far too easily forgotten.

"Martin's behaviour both during and after the game on Saturday underlined his support for, and commitment to, the playing squad.

"As he said, throughout the game there was an incredible amount of unspeakable abuse directed at Neil Lennon. In today's society, no one should have to put up with sectarian abuse of this nature, and Martin was keen to support a player who has been central to the domestic and European success Celtic has enjoyed in recent years."

Alan Thompson and Chris Sutton were both sent off, and a number of other players were fortunate to remain on the pitch. Thompson's dismissal was the more controversial after Peter Lovenkrands had theatrically thrown himself to the ground, claiming he had been head-butted by the Englishman. Lovenkrands failed to reappear for the second-half and the Rangers manager Alex McLeish revealed he had received a kick coming off the pitch at half-time.

Lawwell confirmed that Celtic will appeal against Thompson's red card. He said: "It will be up to the SFA to take what action they deem necessary after receiving the referee's report and reviewing video evidence, but we certainly intend to appeal against Alan Thompson's red card after Peter Lovenkrands' reaction.

"The facts speak for themselves - prior to Saturday's game, we were sitting at the top of the Fair Play league in Scotland, something which has been forgotten in the rush to condemn our players and manager.

"I would like to highlight my gratitude to the Celtic fans who have many times this season underlined the reason why they have received both the Uefa and Fifa Fair Play awards in the past 12 months.

"They can be assured that everyone at the club will be redoubling our efforts to ensure that we do not relinquish our Championship easily."

The SFA is to investigate incidents involving Henri Camara and Nacho Novo. Celtic's Camara could incur a retrospective ban after appearing to stamp on Gregory Vignal during the Old Firm match. Rangers' Novo could find himself in trouble for stamping on Stephen Pearson's neck while the Celtic player lay on the ground.

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