St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright is frustrated at the “raw deal” his former Northern Ireland team-mate Neil Lennon receives.
Lennon last week spoke openly about his bafflement over his status as a hate figure for some in Scottish football after he was pelted with missiles during Aberdeen’s League Cup semi-final with St Johnstone at Tynecastle. The Celtic manager admitted frustration at public misconceptions over his personality and Wright feels his friend is misunderstood.
Wright, who faces Lennon in a Scottish Premiership clash at Celtic Park on Sunday, has known Lennon since their international days and plays golf with the Celtic boss during their summer holidays.
“Everybody sees the football side of everybody but I have known Neil a long, long time and I have found him nothing but good company, a good laugh, and really knowledgeable about football,” the Saints boss said.
“He has been at the top of his profession as a player, he has coached at reserve-team level and worked his way up to get one of the top jobs in Europe, and he is still a young man.
“If you’re a manager, particularly at Celtic and Rangers, you are in the spotlight all the time, and it’s easy for people to try and pick holes in them. But I think he gets a raw deal.
“What happened to him against Aberdeen was a disgrace. It seems he has been targeted in the past.
“I can only speak from my experiences of going to games in Scotland, and the boardrooms are friendly, the supporters have a bit of banter and as long as it’s a bit of banter it’s fine. But people allegedly throwing things and spitting has no place in society.”
The pair’s time at Northern Ireland was cut short when the then Celtic skipper retired from international football after receiving threats.
“He loved his time playing for Northern Ireland,” Wright said. “It was sad that he stopped playing.
“When we used to meet up, it was like a family meeting up. We were all really good friends, in all the Northern Ireland squads, in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s.
“It was sad to see that Neil had to take a decision to retire from international football.
“The banter was always good. He kept me going about my training gear and I won’t say what I kept him going about.”