herald

Thursday 31 July 2014

Lennon: I sympathise with our Irish fans

NEIL LENNON has sent a message of support to the legions of Celtic fans in Ireland who have been inconvenienced by the festive fixture card.

While English football takes a break tomorrow, it's business as usual in the SPL as Celtic face Kilmarnock with a 1.30pm kick-off and the derby match with Rangers four days later.

In Martin O'Neill's heyday, Celtic had 6,000 season ticket holders across Ireland but even though that number has been halved, Lennon is well aware of the sacrifices that long distance fans make to support their team.

"There is no reason why the game couldn't have been played on Boxing Day, with the derby game moved back a day or two," Lennon said. "On Christmas Eve you should be with your families, or, in our case, training and possibly having Christmas Day off, but to have a game at 1.30, I am disappointed with that and I can only sympathise ... with our Irish fans."

Celtic's match with Kilmarnock and Rangers' trip to St Mirren have been virtually overshadowed by thoughts of next week's derby.

A home win on Wednesday would cut Rangers' lead to a single point, assuming both side's have the same result tomorrow, while an away win would provide the Ibrox team with a seven-point advantage.

The fixture hardly needs any extra spice but the release of ex-Rangers striker Kris Boyd from Turkish side Eskisehirspor provides an extra twist.

The chances of debt-ridden Rangers coming up with a wages deal to suit Boyd seem unlikely -- but not as unlikely as a move to Celtic.

Whether Lennon was playing mind games or has a genuine interest in the striker remains to be seen, but he said: "He is a player with a great record and any player like that would interest me."

Anthony Stokes is likely to miss out tomorrow due to a calf strain but Joe Ledley should return after injury.

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