Strachan rejects Shield's claims as player banter

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has launched a staunch defence of the midfielder Neil Lennon and told Greg Shields and his team-mates to grow up over their CIS Insurance Cup final accusations.

The Dunfermline defender claims that Lennon boasted about the size of his bank balance during their 3-0 victory at Hampden Park, and the Pars manager Jim Leishman criticised the Celtic captain even though he has denied the suggestions.

However, Strachan said that verbal abuse had been a big part of the game for many years and even claimed he had a better comeback line than Lennon was alleged to have used.

"Any team sport - including cricket sledging, and in rugby union - there is abuse or winding people up," Strachan said. "The funny thing is it goes on and I used to have it with Roy Aitken, Danny McGrain and Tommy Burns. You notice I am the common denominator in there.

"We were laughing at that because that's what men do. If you start the verbal and your opponent gets the last word in, then you've lost. But if you have lost, please do not go crying away to the headmaster about it. Don't go crying, 'He started the fight and he battered me'. Sort it out yourself. Be a man about it.

"If you want to start it, accept it," Strachan said. "That's what we did when we were players. We used to go hammer and tongs at it, and some of the things that were said were nasty, but if someone wants to start a verbal in any walk of life, they have to accept it."

Strachan claims Lennon should be commended for the way he has responded to his ugly dismissal at Ibrox in August. "Neil Lennon is a top pro and he had one blip this year at Ibrox," he said. "He vowed to do a lot better and he stuck to that. He has been absolutely magnificent as a professional and his work has been quite phenomenal.

"It happens at any level and in any sport. The alternatives, which we have seen a lot of before, is aggressiveness in terms of throwing a punch, going over the ball in a tackle or spitting.

"Celtic are at the top of the Fair Play League so nobody can point a finger at us. We are very professional. Everybody knows what goes on but because it's a cup final that went to plan, somebody had to find another angle."

Team-mate Ross Wallace also believes that the incident has been blown out of proportion. "He is rich," the youngster joked. "This happens in games. The Dunfermline players are not happy about it but it's been going on for years. People have arguments after mis-timed tackles but things have got blown out of proportion. I don't think he meant it that badly."