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By ESPN Staff

Man due in court over Lennon attack

A 26-year-old man appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday in connection with the attempted attack on Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

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John Wilson, 26, of Edinburgh, appeared at a private hearing in Edinburgh Sheriff Court in connection with the incident. Wilson was charged with breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice and assault aggravated by religious prejudice. No plea or declaration was made and he was remanded in custody for further examination. Hearts later handed Wilson a lifetime ban.

A club spokesperson said: "While not wanting to prejudge the outcome of the court case, all true Hearts fans will have been disgusted by what they witnessed last night.

"There is no justification for such actions, which have no place in the game of football, and we have taken the severest action open to set the strongest possible deterrent.''

He made his way onto the touchline during Wednesday night's Scottish Premier League game and tried to strike Lennon, but only landed a glancing blow to the top of his head.

The fracas also involved first-team coach Alan Thompson, police and stewards before the man was marched up the tunnel and arrested. Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan and his Scottish Premier League counterpart Neil Doncaster will meet to discuss how the incident was allowed to occur, while Hearts have opened a full investigation.

Doncaster told Sky Sports News: "We'll be focusing on the situation that led to him being able to get access to the perimeter track and that's something we'll be discussing in detail with the home club. The investigation started immediately the incident happened last night. We'll be talking with the SFA and with all the parties involved to investigate it as thoroughly and as speedily as possible.

"We'll be certainly talking to both clubs, the police and also to our own match delegate, who witnessed the incident, and taking reports from all of those and investigate it thoroughly. It's absolutely vital that any lessons that need to be learned are learned and we can put them into effect.''

The Scottish Football Association are liaising with their colleagues at Hampden. SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said in a statement: "In discussions with Neil Doncaster this morning, the Scottish Premier League have confirmed they have initiated an investigation into the unsavoury events at Tynecastle last night.

"I am also aware that Heart of Midlothian are carrying out their own review of internal security measures at the club and have agreed to co-operate fully with both the police and the football authorities. I reiterate my condemnation of this blight on the image of Scottish football and expect to see robust plans in place to protect players and officials at all times.''

Hearts escaped with a warning after a fan confronted Riordan after he netted a late winner in an Edinburgh derby. The club later banned two supporters who admitted breach of the peace in court.

The club issued a statement in the wake of the incident. It read: "Heart of Midlothian FC can confirm that a full 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. We will give our full support to the stewards and police authorities in the ensuing investigation into the events.''

But Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation which represents more than 17,000 officers, told BBC Radio Five Live: "There isn't a lot you can do to prevent an incident like that. This is an individual who has taken it upon himself to attack and it's absolutely horrendous.

"But unfortunately from a policing point of view, unless you've got a ring of steel around that park and block the view for quite a number of fans, there isn't a lot you can do to prevent it. We always knew it was going to be a feisty game - that's football.

"There is nothing that justifies someone going onto a pitch and physically attacking Neil Lennon or anybody else - that's criminal behaviour, it is nothing to do with football. Whatever else you say about Neil Lennon's behaviour, that's football, this is a criminal act. You can't compare the two.''

Lennon's assistant Johan Mjallby and Hearts boss Jim Jefferies said they would not blame him from walking away from the game in Scotland. Mjallby said: "He is a strong character, he has coped with much. The backroom staff are desperate for him to continue but no-one could blame him if he decided not to.

"I would never blame him whatever he does. I'm shocked and Neil must be even more afraid. What if he (the supporter) had something in his hand? But it is too early to say how Neil will react. I am shocked myself, I see it on television all over the world but I haven't seen it myself.

"We all have to look into this, a manager should be secure inside a football ground.''

Jefferies also believes Lennon might get fed up with the game if the problems continue. He said: "For what he has had to contend with, I wouldn't blame him for walking away.''

Meanwhile, two men are being held by police in connection with an investigation into parcel bombs sent to Lennon and to two high-profile supporters of the club. Two bombs were sent to Lennon and one each to lawyer Paul McBride QC and former MSP Trish Godman.

The men, aged 41 and 43, were detained under the Explosives Substances Act 1883 after officers raided a number of properties in Kilwinning, Ayrshire.


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