Lennon backs Old Firm overseas plan


Click to follow
The Independent Football

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has backed "in principle" the idea of the Old Firm playing each other abroad but admits to reservations about the idea.

Rangers' chief operating officer Ali Russell was quoted at the weekend as saying there is scope for the Glasgow giants to meet either post-season or pre-season, with the USA the most likely destination.

Speaking before tomorrow night's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Dunfermline at Celtic Park, Lennon said: "It depends on the circumstances and depends if we could generate the interest, although I'm sure we could in America.

"In the post-season, it depends how harrowing the season has been on the players.

"If they have to travel to America to play in a friendly, I'm not sure too many players would want to put their hands up for that one.

"In principle it seems like a decent idea but whether all the logistics can be accompanied with that, I don't know."

Scottish Football Association president Campbell Ogilvie, a former director at Ibrox, insists the SFA would consider any such request.

"Any teams wanting to play abroad would have to go through the normal governing body processes," he said. "Any application will be viewed on its own merits and various factors have to be taken into account, obviously dealing with local authorities in other countries and other associations.

"So, if any member club applied to play abroad then it would be given due consideration in conjunction with speaking to the association that was going to host the match."

Meanwhile, Lennon empathised with Anthony Stokes after the Celtic striker's home was attacked at the weekend for the second time.

It was reported that Stokes' pregnant partner was alone in their West Lothian house in the early hours of Saturday morning when a window was smashed.

The house was also reportedly targeted following an Old Firm game last year, with Stokes now considering a move.

Lennon has been no stranger to off-field controversy during his career as a Celtic player and manager, most recently when he was sent bullets and parcel bombs in the post last season which led to him having 24-hour security. The Irishman revealed he had spoken to Stokes, whose good form this season continued on Saturday with both goals in a 2-0 win at Inverness.

"Obviously it is, again, the downside of the off-field stuff that goes on here," he said.

"We had a chat with him yesterday and he is okay.

"It is something that should never happen, not just to Anthony but anybody.

"His young girlfriend is pregnant and I think he is going to move out of the area now and find somewhere else to live because it's not the first time that it has happened.

"However, on the field he has been superb, he has been a huge player for us for in the last couple of months.

"All I want him to do is find that consistency.

"His all-round game is improving, he is an instinctive goalscorer and instinctive player and what he has done this last couple of months is put the ball in the net, and credit to him."

Victory in their game in hand over Dunfermline will take Celtic within seven points of leaders Rangers and a win against St Mirren on Saturday, before the Light Blues travel to Rugby Park on Sunday, would see the gap further decreased but Lennon will not be taking anything for granted.

"It is easier said than done," he said. "I am not looking any further than the game tomorrow night. It is the game in hand we have been waiting on for a little while so we have to maximise that opportunity.

"We have came through two very tough away games and now we have two home games.

"But if we win tomorrow night it is seven points, which is still a substantial lead. My major concern short-term is to get the wins in the bag.

"Hopefully we are starting to find consistency as a unit and individuals are starting to play more like themselves."

The Celtic boss confirmed his interest in Sweden international Mikael Lustig, saying: "He's a right-back who plays in Norway but he is Swedish. He is a player we have been tracking for a while."

Lennon claimed to have noticed an improvement in refereeing standards this season but backed Caley boss Terry Butcher's claim that Greg Tansey was unfortunate to be sent off against Celtic on Saturday.

Inverness confirmed they will appeal against the red card shown to Tansey by referee Stevie O'Reilly following an aerial challenge with Hoops striker Georgios Samaras.

Lennon said: "If it was me I would probably appeal it as well."