09 April 2006

LVF threats forced me into hiding: Lennon

Sunday Life

Ciaran McGuigan
09 April 2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFORMER Northern Ireland captain Neil Lennon has told how he was forced to hide in a pal's house when cops told him that loyalist thugs planned to shoot him. (Photo from Scotland Today - click to view)

The Celtic captain has spoken in depth for the first time about the terrifying night his international career was brought to an end by an LVF death threat.

In an interview to be broadcast today on Radio Scotland he describes the moment cops arrived at his door ahead of a friendly clash with Cyprus to warn him: "Mr Lennon, if you play tonight, you could be seriously hurt."

In the four years since he walked away from international football Lennon (34) has kept quiet about the sickening threats that robbed him of the chance to wear the captain's armband.

But opening his heart for the first time he said: "I was about to captain my country at home for the first time.

"It was a great privilege and an honour. I was really looking forward to it and it was taken away."

Lurgan-born Lennon fled his home and spent a sleepless night in a pal's house.

He also recalled how it had been his big money move from Leicester City to Celtic that turned sections of the Windsor Park crowd against the midfield enforcer.

"For 35 games I didn't have any problems when I was playing for Leicester.

"Then I signed for Celtic and people booed every time I touched the ball," he recalled.

"People can play it down and say it was only a small section of the crowd, but you could hear it every time I touched the ball.

"It hurt. I was playing for their team and because of my choice of club they saw me as a symbol of something they detested."

Lennon has been the target of constant sectarian abuse since he joined Celtic in 2000. In one incident, thugs daubed a death threat in paint on the road outside his Glasgow home.

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