Celtic boss Neil Lennon incredibly DEFENDS their Dubai training trip

‘We had a little drink and we’ve come back to a barrage of hypocrisy’: Neil Lennon incredibly DEFENDS Celtic’s Dubai ‘jolly’ – even as ANOTHER player tests positive for Covid – and claims there’s an agenda against his unraveling champions

  • Neil Lennon has defended Celtic’s decision to go on their training trip to Dubai
  • Leaving Glasgow for the Middle East earlier this month has caused controversy
  • Lennon, John Kennedy and 13 stars had to self-isolate after a positive Covid test
  • He missed the draw against Hibernian and the goalless draw against Livingston
  • But a defiant Lennon has now claimed there is an agenda against his champions 

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has defended his team’s controversial mid-season trip to Dubai, despite having to announce that yet another member of his first-team squad has tested positive for Covid-19.

The Celtic boss missed the 1-1 draw against Hibernian and the goalless draw against Livingston at Parkhead as he was self-isolating following the club’s controversial training trip to the Middle East.

Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 players had to self-isolate after Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus and chief executive Peter Lawwell admitted the trip was ‘a mistake’ and apologised to Hoops fans.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has defended his team’s controversial mid-season trip to Dubai

Celtic were heavily criticised for going ahead with the trip despite rising Covid-19 cases

There has been a furious reaction to Celtic’s trip to Dubai after they ignored rising cases of Covid-19 both at home and in the Middle East in late December by flying out hours after they lost 1-0 to Rangers on January 2.

Pictures of players and staff drinking alcohol around a swimming pool angered fans currently in a second lockdown and prompted Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to question if the club were abusing their elite athlete exemption. 

But ahead of the trip to Livingston on Wednesday, a defiant Lennon claimed there is an agenda against his champions who are currently 21 points behind leaders Rangers.

He said: ‘Another player has been deemed positive, it is someone who is self-isolating. Everyone is negative bar two players.

‘I think that is remarkable and blows out the water the way the trip has been portrayed in certain quarters of the media, by certain pundits and by certain government officials as well.’

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell apologised for the club’s decision to go to the Middle East

Lennon wants an apology from Andy Walker after he labelled the trip a ‘jolly’ on Sky Sports

Lennon continued to hit back at what he believes was unfair criticism of the trip, saying: ‘We didn’t abuse any “privilege”, we did the right things, we were totally professional.

‘We had a little drink in the afternoon on the day of, completely allowed, no law breaking. But we come back to this barrage of absolute hypocrisy.’  

Lennon also demanded an apology from Andy Walker after the ex-Celtic striker labelled the trip a ‘jolly’ while working on Sky Sports.

Walker said: ‘What we’ve seen is some dismal governance. First of all by the joint response group, a body who also agreed to sign off on Celtic’s trip to Dubai at a time when they’re approaching the Scottish Government to plead a bit of poverty.

‘I’m guessing this trip Celtic went on cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. They chartered their own aircraft, stayed for five nights in five-star accommodation for 20 to 30 people. It’s extraordinary.

‘We’re also seeing some dismal governance from this club. It is unbelievably arrogant to abuse your status as an elite sportsman. That was only brought in for international and European competition. Not for a jolly in Dubai.

‘I don’t know of any top club in Europe who are thinking of going to sunnier climes to get some warm-weather training.’  

Lawell insisted the trip went ahead because of the performance benefits of previous years

In an in-house Celtic interview released last week, Lawwell expressed his regret that the trip had gone ahead – while detailing the thought process behind it. 

‘Looking with hindsight, looking at the outcome of the trip, clearly it was a mistake and for that I profoundly apologise to our supporters,’ he said.

‘We left here and the rationale for the camp was with the very best of intentions.

‘Things haven’t gone the way we wanted to, and the outcome is clearly very regrettable.’ Asked why the trip went ahead in the first place, Lawwell continued: ‘If you look back over the last four years, going to the camp in Dubai has been extremely successful. 

‘The decisions we made are entirely for the best interest of the team and the best interest of the club.

‘What we planned to do was take them to these facilities again – which are world class – after a very, very hectic programme in November and December, which has in the past proven to be of great benefit in terms of performance after January.’

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