BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
NEIL LENNON concedes he lost his cool after being sent to the stands against Kilmarnock – however he remains adamant that referee Kevin Clancy should never have banished him from the touchline in the first place.
The fiery Northern Irishman has been hit by two separate Scottish FA charges, with the first relating to ‘misconduct’ on the sidelines and the second coming after his post-match comments, which included describing the officiating as ‘Mickey Mouse’.
Hibs drew a breathless contest at Rugby Park 2-2, having been leading 2-0 at the break, and the Killie comeback was sparked by a contentious penalty decision when Ryan Porteous was adjudged to have handled the ball deliberately.
Lennon vehemently disagreed with Clancy’s decision, but claims his initial reaction did not warrant a dismissal and insists he only reacted angrily when it became apparent he was being more harshly treated than many of his fellow managers.
Lennon, who will be in the dock at Hampden on March 15, said: “I am not happy with my reaction, but what’s getting lost in all this is that the penalty decision did not make me react the way I did – my sending off did.
“I debated the decision, as any other manager would, to the fourth official and I didn’t think my behaviour on the day warranted a sending-off. That’s basically why I reacted the way I did. It’s unacceptable from my point of view and made me very, very angry.
“I will debate it as vigorously as possible because my behaviour was not any different to any other manager up and down the country every weekend.
“I thought he [Clancy] was rash with the penalty decision and he was certainly rash with the sending off. If he had come over to me and said, ‘you know what Lenny, one more and you’re off’, fair enough. But not a straight sending off.
“I can’t do my job then. The team is under a massive amount of pressure. It’s a double whammy against me and my team.”
While reluctant to explicitly state that it is one rule for him and another for others, Lennon cannot help but look back to last season when referee Don Robertson awarded Ross County a blatant penalty against Celtic following an Alex Schalk dive.
Liam Boyce converted the spot-kick and the Staggies claimed a 2-2 draw. It was later reported the the Scottish FA’s head of refereeing John Fleming had contacted Hoops manager Brendan Rodgers to apologise.
He recalled: “We all saw it was a dive and the wrong decision and from what I gather somebody rang Brendan at Celtic and apologised. That doesn’t happen to me.
“We get a good goal disallowed [against Hearts] and nobody rings me the next day to say they got it wrong. That hasn’t happened once and I don’t bother ringing John Fleming because I’ll just get the same explanation.
“They’ll just get the ducks in a row and tell me what to think.”
Nevertheless, Lennon is keen not to be seen as a man at war with Officialdom and, despite what some onlookers may think, says he is the first to compliment a whistler on a fine display – even if a decision goes against his side. He just wants more communication.
He continued: “I shouldn’t even be talking about my behaviour. My behaviour has been really good.
“Even the game at Ibrox, when we got the goal disallowed, I was made aware that it was offside. I went to the linesman and said ‘well done, excellent decision’, but all that gets reported is me being the villain, castigating referees. That is not the case at all.
“When the [Oli Shaw] goal wasn’t given at Tynecastle, the ref Steven McLean came over and said: ‘Look, Neil, I can’t guess.’ I get that. I respect that. And you get on with the game. Alright, he got the decision wrong, but he wasn’t sure if he could give it or not. He explained that to me and that was fine.
“But there’s a lot of confusion, a lot of inconsistency. I see words like ‘blistering attack’ – I’m treated like Kim Jong II, like I’m sitting with a button I’m about to press at referees – I’m not. I sit here quietly and I give my opinion.”
Amid his frustration Lennon did, however, manage to raise a smile after being backed by Hearts manager Craig Levein, who stated this week that he has said many things he has later regretted during his time in the dugout.
A famous bust-up with former referee Mike McCurry following a contentious defeat at Ibrox with Dundee United sprung to mind.
He added: “It’s funny because I saw Craig’s comments and I appreciated them. I Googled his Mike McCurry incident – and I thought: ‘Yeah, I know how you feel!’”