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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Man charged over mid-match assault on Neil Lennon

Edinburgh police arrest a man who emerged from the stands and attacked the Celtic boss during last night’s match with Hearts.

Image: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

A MAN HAS been charged in connection with an attack on Celtic football manager Neil Lennon – after the manager was attacked in the middle of a match last night.

26-year-old John Wilson, with an address in Edinburgh, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court this afternoon charged with assault aggravated by religious prejudice, as well as a breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice.

Wilson made no plea or declaration and was remanded in custody, STV reports.

The court appearance followed a an attack on Lennon shortly after his side went 2-0 up early in the second half of last night’s game away at Hearts, a game in which Celtic emerged 3-0 winners.

A man leapt over advertising hoardings at the Tynecastle stadium and rushed at Lennon, making physical contact with the Celtic boss before being wrestled to the ground and arrested.

The Celtic manager appeared shaken by the attack but was not injured; the game continued as normal afterward, but Lennon skipped his post-match press duties, instead sending his deputy Johan Mjällby to speak to the media.

“It was shocking and I have never seen anything like it at this level. This is a dark day for Scottish football. You never know what the guy could have had in his hand,” Mjällby told the Guardian.

The BBC quotes a statement from Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan, who said the behaviour was “wholly unacceptable” and that the safety of players and officials was a paramount concern.

The attack was condemned by Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond, who said a new group would meet to present plans to tackle “violent and bigotry” in football before the beginning of the next season. Hearts have also pledged to cooperate with police inquiries.

Two people have also been arrested, PA reports, in connection with the parcel bombs sent to Lennon and other high-profile supporters of the club including Lennon’s lawyer and a Scottish politician.

Earlier this year, police intercepted a package containing bullets which had been addressed to Lennon. The Celtic manager has been forced to leave his home, and his family now live at an undisclosed location with round-the-clock police surveillance amid ongoing fears for their safety.

Lennon, a former Northern Ireland international, was forced to quit international football in 2002 after his appointment as team captain, following death threats from loyalists angered at a Catholic’s appointment to the role.

Last night’s win for Celtic – which has naturally been overshadowed by the events surrounding Lennon – has forced the race for the Scottish Premier League into the season’s final weekend, with Celtic’s cross-city rivals Rangers a point ahead going into the final games on Sunday.

Man charged over mid-match assault on Neil Lennon
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Gavan Reilly

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