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Celtic boss hits back at Dubai trip criticism but confirms another positive test

By January 18, 2021No Comments

Neil Lennon confirmed another Celtic player has tested positive for Covid-19 as he angrily hit back at criticism of the club’s controversial trip to Dubai.

The Parkhead boss missed the 1-1 draw against Hibernian and the goalless draw with Livingston as he was self-isolating following the mid-season training camp.

Lennon, assistant John Kennedy, another member of staff and 13 players had to isolate after Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus and subsequently chief executive Peter Lawwell admitted the trip was “a mistake” as he apologised to Hoops fans.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon questioned whether the trip was essential and
revealed doubts “based on some pictures I’ve seen whether adherence to bubble rules was strict enough”. The pictures showed members of the Celtic squad not distancing or wearing face coverings.

Ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Livingston, Lennon responded to a question about his time self-isolating by saying: “It has been interesting watching the
fall-outs, the media and the attacks on the club.”

Celtic boss hits back at Dubai trip criticism but confirms another positive test PLZ Soccer
Neil Lennon was on the front foot at a press conference on Monday (Andrw Gilligan/PA)

He then said: “Another player has been deemed positive,  it is someone who is self-isolating. The whole squad is negative bar two players.

“I think that is remarkable and blows out the water the way the trip has been portrayed in certain quarters of the media, by certain pundits and by certain government officials as well.

“We did not abuse any ‘privilege’, we did the right things, we were totally professional.

“We had a little drink in the afternoon on the day off, completely allowed, no law breaking.

“Yet now we come back to this barrage of absolute hypocrisy.”

The former Celtic captain continued: “It shouldn’t have been Peter who apologised to our supporters, it should have been me, it was my decision, with the best intentions for the second half of the season.

“Unfortunately it has not worked out that way. I think the fallout from this is way too much and a bit of bullying going on.

“We have been held to a far higher standard than any other club. There seems to be some sort of agenda being driven here.

“It seems political in my opinion. I am not getting into a fight with the government but I will just leave it out there.

“My apology is to the fans because 13 players and three staff had to isolate for 10 days, which is ludicrous. But I am not apologising for anything else, I am not apologising for going out there and training for a week.

“I am not apologising for the players having a day off.”

With a nod to the Scotland squad being filmed dancing a conga last November after they had qualified for the Euro 2020 with a penalty shoot-out win over Serbia, Lennon continued his passionate defence of his club, who are 21 points behind Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership with three games in hand.

He said: “We were in our bubbles, The players were in a bar, they weren’t on top of one another.

“We were outside, in our bubble having a beer for half an hour. This has been made out to be something that it is not.

“We weren’t doing a 20-man conga which is lauded by all and sundry because Scotland qualified for the Euros. Our players weren’t behaving like that at all.

“Like I said, 80 per cent of them are teetotal and for anyone to call it a jolly is totally disrespectful.

Celtic boss hits back at Dubai trip criticism but confirms another positive test PLZ Soccer
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon questioned whether the trip was essential (Andy Buchanan/PA)

“There is nothing wrong with the photographs, we weren’t hiding anything, we were there on our day off, having travelled through the night.

“We had some downtime, as it was impossible to train.

“This has been a stick to beat us with – these photographs – and it is completely preposterous.”

Lennon also questioned the coronavirus protocols in Scottish football.

He said: “We had to bus six people on two buses against Hibs. That hasn’t been going on all season.

“We have been going to away grounds where we are crammed in like sardines, like Boxing Day at Hamilton.

“St Johnstone, all crammed in. There is no social distancing. So protocols at different clubs are inconsistent.

“But as soon as Celtic are deemed to have done something wrong, bang, you all want blood, it is absolutely scandalous.”