Neil Lennon: Celtic manager rails against government & 'barrage of hypocrisy' over Dubai trip

By Kheredine IdessaneBBC Scotland
We did the right things - Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says the Scottish government's decision to tell 13 of their players to self-isolate after their trip to Dubai was motivated by politics and not public health.

Lennon and 13 players missed two games after a positive Covid-19 test and now a further player has tested positive.

Celtic drew both of their matches while depleted and are 21 points behind Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers.

"We've come back and been absolutely decimated by these rules," Lennon said.

"I'm not convinced they're a public health issue. [It] seems political in my opinion.

"There seems to be some sort of agenda being driven here. I am not getting into a fight with the government but I will just leave it out there."

Lennon said the club was led to believe they only had to be 2m apart on their chartered flight, but after consultation with the health authorities following the first positive test, were informed anyone sitting within two rows of seats of the positive case must isolate.

The Scottish government declined to comment.

"We've been held to a far higher standard than any other club," Lennon added.

"Protocols at different clubs are inconsistent. As soon as Celtic are deemed to do something wrong, bang, you're all wanting blood, it's absolutely scandalous. The fallout from this has been way too much.

"Aston Villa have shut down, Raith Rovers. They haven't travelled anywhere. We could easily have stayed here and had an outbreak, but because our protocols are so good, we've been able to quell that."

'We've come back to barrage of hypocrisy'

Upon Celtic's return, Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon urged the club to reflect seriously on their Dubai trip and questioned whether protocols had been followed as photos emerged of players and staff appearing to breach social distancing rules.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell last week apologised to supporters and said the trip was a "mistake", but Lennon says the apology should have come from him.

"My apology is to the fans because 13 players and three staff had to isolate for 10 days, which is ludicrous," said Lennon, who will return to the dugout when Celtic face hosts Livingston on Wednesday.

"I'm not apologising for anything else. I'm not apologising for going out there and training for a week. Hindsight's a wonderful thing. We did everything we possibly could to avoid the damage.

"The whole squad is negative bar two players. I think that is remarkable and I think it totally blows out of the water the way the training camp has been portrayed by 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 absolutely totally professional. We had a little drink in the afternoon on a day off, completely allowed, no law breaking - yet we come back to this barrage of absolute hypocrisy."

After Wednesday's match, defending champions Celtic will still have two league games in hand.

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