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Tootle's 'slug' goal celebration

The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Lennon bemoans early start

Neil Lennon has joined Terry Butcher in criticising the early start to the SPL season.

With a view to improving Scottish clubs' chances in Europe, the new campaign begins this weekend but Butcher described it as "farcical'', claiming that most clubs have still not assembled their squads.

Hoops boss Lennon, whose side travel to Easter Road on Sunday to play Hibernian, backed his Caley counterpart.

He said: "I go along with that. It's too early. I can understand the reasoning or the thinking behind it. But we finished on May 21 and we were back in on June 23 and the season is starting on Sunday. Some of my players have had a fortnight's break.

"Physically they are all right but you wonder about mental fatigue kicking in, maybe not early in the season but maybe later on in the season so we have to be wary of that.

"We are going to have to negotiate Sunday as best we can, get through that hopefully and get a positive result. We have prepared as best we can.

"It should be a good atmosphere, the pitch should be in good condition and we hope to pick up the tempo as quickly as possible.''

The quick return to action means last season is still fresh in the mind and Lennon found himself yet again quizzed about his spat with then Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist - now the Light Blues boss - at the end of the Old Firm Scottish Cup replay at Parkhead in March.

The two men had to be restrained when Lennon reacted angrily to what appeared to be a remark by McCoist as they shook hands following the Hoops' 1-0 win.

The altercation led to a summit being convened by First Minister Alex Salmond in a bid to address the disorder surrounding Old Firm games.

Lennon admits he cannot guarantee passions will not boil over again this season but insists there was an over-reaction last time.

"You would try to avoid it,'' the former Celtic skipper said. I'm not making any promises that that won't happen again but I'm sure that it won't. Passions run high, we need to keep a lid on things.

"Everyone has a responsibility towards calming things down, managers, players and media and maybe not make mountains out of molehills when it comes to certain incidents.

"I've seen football this week in South America where 22 players are having a go and that is at international level in one of the biggest competitions in the world.

"It's not isolated to Glasgow. But we have spoken to the referees about the situation and we have the police coming to brief the players. We know what we can and cannot do. We all aware of the greater responsibility going in to the season.''

Lennon, who last season was also subject to death threats and was attacked by a fan at Tynecastle, is hoping the focus remains on his players as they try to take the title back from Ibrox.

He said: "We played some brilliant football but that seemed to be a side issue with all the nonsense that went on. So I am hoping that for the majority of the time this year everyone is talking about the team.''

Lennon revealed that keeper Stipe Pletikosa will remain on trial at the club for another week. The Hoops boss, who will be without suspended Scott Brown for Sunday's game, confirmed that South African striker Katlego Mphela and Saint Etienne's Ivory Coast international, Boubacar Sanogo, will both arrive on trial next week.


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