Celtic, Rangers dogged by off-field trials

Updated: 16 December 2011 14:18 IST

Despite yet another final day title showdown and yet more embarrassing European exits, 2011 will forever be remembered in Scottish football for the turbulent off-field events.

Celtic, Rangers dogged by off-field trials

Glasgow:

Despite yet another final day title showdown and yet more embarrassing European exits, 2011 will forever be remembered in Scottish football for the turbulent off-field events.

In a season where the Old Firm clashed a record seven times, tensions were always likely to run high with rookie Celtic manager Neil Lennon seemingly at the heart of everything.

A touchline argument between Ally McCoist and the Hoops boss in a fiery Scottish Cup match in March, and other clashes with match officials, led Celtic and the Scottish Football Association to become embroiled in legal disputes over disciplinary procedures after Lennon was handed two touchline bans.

Things also turned nasty for the Celtic manager away from the pitch when he was sent bullets and parcel bombs in the post and was attacked in his technical area by a Hearts fan during a match as Scottish football's sectarian shame reared its ugly head.

The intense pressure the Celtic manager had been under prompted speculation he would walk away after leading his side to Scottish Cup glory in May.

But the Northern Irishman signed an improved contract despite missing out on the Scottish Premier League title and League Cup to Rangers and said he was hopeful things would improve.

"It was difficult for my parents and family last season but I'm hoping things in Scottish football get a lot better," Lennon said.

"This is a lifetime ambition for me. I've been lucky enough to play for Celtic and be manager and I don't want to give it up for non-footballing reasons."

Off-field drama dominated the headlines at rivals Rangers as well.

Craig Whyte, who bought the club for £1 from former chairman Sir David Murray and wiped out the club's debts with the Lloyds Banking Group, arrived just in time to see the club clinch its record extending 54th title.

However, his arrival has done little to settle the nerves of the club's fans.

A court case regarding a disputed £49 million tax bill from payments made before Whyte's time in charge hangs over Rangers.

Despite stating his confidence of winning the case the new owner admitted administration may be a reality for the club.

The SFA are also investigating Whyte after it emerged he was previously disqualified as a company director.

Reports also claim the Ibrox side could face expulsion from European football next season unless their finances are put in order.

However, on the park it is business as usual for the Glasgow giants.

Rangers clinched their third league title in a row under Walter Smith in May before the veteran manager made way to let assistant McCoist take charge at Ibrox.

After a shaky start, which saw Rangers crashing out of two European competitions and the League Cup, the rookie manager has taken his club to the summit of the SPL and admits he doesn't let the off-field speculation affect him or his players.

"It doesn't affect me to be honest. My job here is to run a football team and hopefully put a winning team on the park," said McCoist.

"There is no point worrying about things you can't affect or have a bearing on. If you start worrying about it, you've got no chance. The players certainly won't worry about that."

Financial problems also dog Hearts who have had a year to forget.

Jim Jeffries returned to the club and took them to a third place finish and a European spot but after an indifferent start to the new season chairman Vladimir Romanov brought in Portuguese manager Paulo Sergio.

The Lithuanian owner has also put the Tynecastle club up for sale as he demands £50 million for the Jambos.

However, the real talking point has been the late and non-payment of wages with several Hearts players ready to complain to the SPL after failing to pick up their November salaries.

Colin Calderwood was sacked by Hibernian with the Easter Road side hovering just above the drop zone.

The arrival of Pat Fenlon in December means there are now more Scottish managers in charge of English Premier League sides than there are managing in the SPL.

Topics : Football Celtic
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