NEIL LENNON has branded the ugly melee that marred Hibs’ explosive clash with Morton as ’20 times worse’ than his bust-up with Ally McCoist in the Old Firm ‘shame game’.
In an astonishing rant, the angry Hibs boss has accused Cappielow counterpart Jim Duffy of making light of ‘a very serious incident’ in the final minutes of Wednesday’s goalless draw.
Lennon insists there was venom, intent and aggression in the way Duffy and his backroom team confronted him in the wake of the reckless challenge from Kudus Oyenuga that sparked the brawl.
Revealing he had been left the angriest he had ever felt in his time in football, Lennon admitted he had lost respect for Duffy and believes Ton number two Craig McPherson should face SFA action, accusing him of ‘trying to swing punches’.
Lennon is adamant he has no regrets over his own behaviour, during which he had to be restrained by his own players, and claims he would have been ‘nailed to the cross’ had he acted like Duffy did.
And, with his opposite number maintaining in his statement that he did not ask Lennon for a ‘square go’, the Easter Road head coach has insisted he used the phrase ‘euphemistically’ – but is in no doubt that Duffy ‘wanted a fight’.
He said: “I’m unhappy with Jim’s comments after the game, I’m unhappy with the statement. Where do you want me to start? I’ll start with his comments after the game.
“’There was obviously a fracas?’ It was more than a fracas, far more than a fracas. ‘Neil wasn’t happy with Kudus’ challenge’. Understatement of the year!
“’The referee was going to send him off anyway.’ Is he a mind reader? I wasn’t aware of that and I was standing closest to it.
“’Obviously there were a few people involved’. A few people involved? It must have been at least 20, the majority from his staff and his technical area.
“’Maybe it was handbags with a few things inside the handbags?’ It was far from handbags. Somebody tried to compare it to the spat I had with Ally McCoist. It was far worse than that! Far worse than that.
“’I’m sure Neil will say the same, it was just emotion.’ ‘No Neil won’t say the same. I totally disagree with it. It was disgraceful behaviour.
“’Sometimes you have to stand your ground for your team.’ Why? Why? There was no Morton player injured. What did I do? What did I do?
“Their staff came over and confronted me. Confronting me. I remonstrated once with the player and the referee.
“’I’m not going to get involved in a public debate with the Hibs manager’. Do you know why he doesn’t want to get into a public debate? Because he is wrong and he is trying to make light of a very serious incident.
“And I am not having it. I am not having me dragged into it as if I am the protagonist all the time. I did not say he offered me a square go. It was a euphemism.
“What was he doing then? Because after Oyenuga halves my player and feigns a headbutt, by the time I’ve looked up he’s in my face – not protecting his players. Coming for me!
“And his assistant manager, who I want cited as well. If I’m up and the Morton manager is up then I want the Morton assistant manager up as well because he was the one trying to swing punches.
“All I’m getting in the statement is Jim trying to defend himself and say I didn’t offer him a square go.
“I’m not saying he did ask me for a square go. I’m saying his behaviour and body language was confrontational and he certainly wasn’t coming over for a chat and he certainly wasn’t coming over to defend his player.”
He went on: “I was stood on the touchline and I told the player he was a disgrace and then [gestured] to the referee to get him off. That does not warrant a manager running at me wanting a fight, or his assistant or his kitman or his first-team coach.
“Jim has made a joke of it: ‘Maybe I should ask Lenny what it is like to go to the SFA’. Very funny! I don’t find it funny.”