Celtic increase protection for Lennon after package hoax

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The Independent Football

Celtic and Rangers have the ideal fixtures to help cool Glaswegian tensions this weekend, taking on the Scottish Premier League's bottom two sides in Hamilton and St Mirren respectively, but the events of Wednesday night continue to provoke extraordinary enmities within the city.

Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, was yesterday given 24-hour surveillance after another suspicious package addressed to his home was discovered in a sorting office.

Lennon has previously been sent bullets through the post and although this latest package turned out to be a hoax it was enough for the club to put extra security arrangements in place. He was accompanied by a security guard when he arrived at Celtic's Barrowfield training ground and did not attend his regular Friday press conference.

"This most recent sickening event in a long line of threats to Neil and his family is extremely worrying," said Peter Lawwell, the club's chief executive. "This demonstrates the intensity and pressure which Neil endures as the Celtic manager. Indeed, it is extremely sad that Neil has had to contend with such issues for more than a decade, both as a Celtic player and manager. No one in any walk of life should have to live their life in this way and those responsible should be condemned."

Lennon has apologised to the Celtic board for his actions after the full-time whistle on Wednesday night. For today's game against Hamilton he will be in the Celtic Park stands as he starts a four-game ban – reduced on appeal from six – for "excessive misconduct" during a match against Hearts in November. It means he will not be pitchside for the next Old Firm game, in the League Cup final on 20 March.

Walter Smith, his Rangers counterpart, yesterday expressed his disappointment with the actions of his players, only for Lee McCulloch to claim it had all been blown out of proportion.

Proportion rarely applies when it comes to the Old Firm and McCulloch's comments are not designed to help restore sanity. The Scotland midfielder, who did not feature in the match due to injury, said: "I'm proud to be part of Rangers. I just think everybody has blown it out of proportion. For me, all it was was an argument and a couple of tackles."

Smith, a veteran of the fixture, applied a more considered appraisal. He said: "What you have to remember when you look at the broader picture is that the police had flagged up that they were having problems with the Old Firm games prior to the game the other night. If it is becoming that bad, then they have to do something about the fixture. They have to start to look at the Old Firm games on a broader basis than just one given match. We have to respect them and go along with them and do what we can as football clubs to try and help in that respect."

Smith admitted that his players – and himself – had immediate issues to address. He said: "I was a little disappointed with the reaction of some of the players to decisions later in the game. They did get a little frustrated. You can argue about the right or wrong decisions of the referee but our reaction towards the end was a wrong one. That's something I have a responsibility to try to rectify. I don't hide away from that. I've got to take responsibility for that and will try to do so."

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