Celtic manager Neil Lennon attack suspect in court

Radio 5 live commentators Roddy Forsyth and Andy Gillies describe the incident

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A man has appeared in court in connection with an alleged attack on Celtic's Neil Lennon during his team's match against Hearts.

John Clark Wilson, 26, has been charged with breach of the peace and assault, both aggravated by religious prejudice.

He made no plea or declaration and was remanded in custody during the private hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The Celtic football club manager was attacked on the touchline after his club's second goal at Tynecastle.

A fan clambered from the Hearts section of the main stand and made for Lennon.

He connected with Lennon before being bundled to the ground and arrested. Lennon looked stunned after the attack but was uninjured.

In a separate development, two men have been detained by police investigating parcel bombs sent to Lennon.

Start Quote

"Don't let what happened to me tonight take the shine off a wonderful team performance...I don't walk alone."”

End Quote Neil Lennon Celtic Manager

Earlier this season the devices - addressed to Lennon, his lawyer and a politician - were intercepted by police.

Strathclyde Police said their operation on Thursday morning was centred on the town of Kilwinning, in Ayrshire, where one suspect package had been discovered in a postbox.

Celtic won Wednesday night's game 3-0 to ensure the Scottish Premier League title race goes to the final day.

The attack on the manager occurred after their second goal, in the 49th minute.

A supporter ran along the touchline towards Lennon and made contact with the Celtic manager before being pushed to the ground by police and stewards, handcuffed and bundled out of the stadium.

Trouble then broke out in the Celtic section of the ground between fans and police.

Lennon later posted on Twitter: "Don't let what happened to me tonight take the shine off a wonderful team performance...I don't walk alone."

Analysis

For a decade Neil Lennon has been a magnet for abuse, threats and violence.

A Roman Catholic from Lurgan in County Armagh, he stopped playing international football for Northern Ireland in 2002 after a death threat, said to be from loyalist paramilitaries.

Two men were sent to prison after assaulting Lennon in the street in the West End of Glasgow in 2008.

And in January this year bullets addressed to the Celtic manager were intercepted at a postal sorting office.

But the most serious threat was still to come.

A total of three parcel bombs addressed to Neil Lennon have now been intercepted in the west of Scotland.

Lennon and his family are living amid tight security which includes a panic button in their house.

"I've had this for 10 years", he said recently, "but I don't want to say you get used to it, because you never do."

Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan issued a statement, saying: "Clearly this kind of behaviour from supporters is wholly unacceptable.

"The safety of players, club officials and match officials is paramount on or around the field of play, and this clear breach of security is a matter I will be discussing with SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster tomorrow."

Mr Doncaster said he was "shocked and appalled" by the incident.

He said the incident would be investigated thoroughly.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "This sort of behaviour is utterly unacceptable.

"The Joint Action Group formed after the recent football summit is developing the eight-point plan to present to ministers before the start of the new season to tackle all issues of violence and bigotry in relation to football, because we cannot have the safety of individuals endangered by such mindless incidents, and our national game tarnished."

Hearts vowed to give its full co-operation to the authorities during the investigation into the incident.

A club statement said: "An investigation into events which took place in the second half of tonight's game against Celtic is now under way.

"Hearts is a club which prides itself on its 'football for all' policy and these sorts of actions have no place in the game of football."

Parcel in postbox

Former Northern Ireland player Lennon has been in the headlines regularly this season.

In January a package addressed to him containing bullets was intercepted at a sorting office in Country Antrim.

In March, the club confirmed Lennon was under 24-hour security surveillance after a suspicious package was intercepted at a Royal Mail sorting office in Saltcoats, Ayrshire.

On 19 April it emerged that Royal Mail intercepted a total of two "viable" parcel bombs addressed to Lennon.

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