Treat Rangers like rest, says Lennon as Ibrox club face new sanctions
23:39 GMT, 29 April 2012
Neil Lennon has insisted that Rangers must be punished if they break the rules of the game — and not treated as a special case.
The Celtic manager, who believes that sporting integrity must override all other factors, was speaking after his side strolled to a 3-0 victory over the Ibrox men at Parkhead.
The SPL clubs will vote on rules that could allow a newco Rangers to continue to play in the top flight after being hit with a series of points and financial penalties.
Demand: Neil Lennon (centre) does not want Rangers treated differently
But even if the proposals are voted through, the Ibrox club’s very existence is still threatened by a one-year transfer embargo, as well as SPL and SFA probes into alleged double contracts.
Rangers boss Ally McCoist has outlined his belief that provision has to be made as his club, together with Celtic, is a ‘special case’ in economic terms.
However, Lennon, while sympathetic with his counterpart’s view, insists the laws of the game must be applied, without exception, to all clubs. Asked if Rangers and Celtic should be treated differently, Lennon replied: ‘No. Not if you break the rules — not if you break the laws of football.
‘There’s an issue of sporting integrity. Moral sporting integrity as well.
‘I understand Ally’s point, to a certain extent, but if you have flouted the laws in the capacity that they have, then I’d imagine the powers that be will punish them accordingly.
‘It’s out of my hands. But if you break the rules, you should expect to be punished,’ he said.
‘I can’t comment on what has been going on at another club. The powers that be will deal with it as they see fit.
‘But I don’t want to see them (Old Firm games) go because it really whets the appetite. As a player, you’d miss them terribly — as a manager, they are horrible. Honestly. Even today when there’s no real pressure on the game.
Pure delight: Celtic celebrate as they beat Rangers in the Old Firm derby
‘You are always apprehensive going into it. The build-up is over a week in advance and we’ve got the fallout now.
‘I’ve got to say, I thought both sets of supporters were fantastic. There was a lot of humour going about and that’s what we want to see, not the other side — the nastiness. Both sets of supporters were a credit to their clubs.’
Lennon watched his championship-winning side emphatically extend their lead at the top to 21 points through goals from Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons and Gary Hooper.
With just three games remaining, the victory renders talk of tainted titles redundant in that Rangers could not now overcome their greatest rivals even had 10 points not been deducted for going into administration.
And while extolling the virtues of a win that saw the honours in this season’s Old Firm clashes end even, Lennon was happy to point a finger at the critics who have attempted to belittle his side’s achievement this term.
‘It’s not us who are saying these things,’ added the Celtic manager. ‘Some people have said that this title is devalued and tainted. The only way it is tainted is if you’ve cheated to win it.
‘We’ve done nothing wrong. We’ve played the best football, scored the most goals and conceded the fewest.
‘We’ve got the best disciplinary record in the league, so we’re worthy champions.
‘We haven’t started games well against Rangers this season, so it was imperative we got a foothold in the game early on.
Big win: Kris Commons scores Celtic's second goal against Rangers on Sunday
‘We were disappointed with the way we started the last game at Ibrox, even though we came back into it at the end.
‘The set-piece (for Mulgrew’s opener) was something we looked at. We just felt there was an area we could exploit at the back post.
‘If you take all their best headers away from that area, Kris has got to execute the cross and Charlie’s got to put it away.
‘It gave us a great foothold in the game. The second goal is brilliant. It was a great weight of pass from Gary and Kris has drawn Kyle (Bartley) in and got away for a great finish. Those aren’t easy.
‘The third goal, we’ve picked their pocket and Gary’s thumped it into the net.
‘At 3-0, I’m thinking I don’t want Rangers to score and get back into the game. Everybody else is thinking four or five, but I can’t ask any more.
‘I thought my midfield of (Scott) Brown and (Joe) Ledley were fantastic and covered every blade of grass. They read the game well and broke it up.
‘I thought (Kris) Commons was exceptional today as well. They did everything we asked them to do and I’m so proud of them. It’s been a good day for the club and the supporters.
‘Everyone will say I got my tactics bang on and all that nonsense. We played well and were the better team. That’s why we’re worthy champions, but I don’t buy into all the tactical stuff that I got one over on Ally — we just won the game and I’m thrilled with that.
‘We’ve answered all the questions and shown we are worthy champions.’