NEIL LENNON believes that Rangers have brought their financial problems on themselves as a result of a "build-up of mismanagement".
The Ibrox club's financial troubles were laid bare this week with the revelation that owner Craig Whyte had accessed three years' worth of advance season-ticket money from a lending firm, while top scorer Nikica Jelavic was sold to Everton on the final day of the transfer window to also help ease cashflow difficulties. Rangers are also awaiting the outcome of the recently-concluded tax tribunal with HMRC relating to their use of Employee Benefit Trusts from which they could face a potential liability of £49m.
Lennon admitted that he had some sympathy for Ally McCoist, his opposite number, for the problems he has had in his first year as a manager, but none for Rangers as a club, believing chickens had "come home to roost". "Tell me this: Why was he [McCoist] forced to sell Jelavic?" asked Lennon. "Because of [the financial situation at the club] that has been going on for how many years?
"I'm not saying it's Ally's fault. I have a certain sympathy with him in that respect because it's his first year in the job and I'm sure he didn't envisage the problems he has had. But it's been a build-up of mismanagement, if you want to call it that, on the financial side for a long, long time. Somebody must have seen it coming. Do I have sympathy in that respect for them? No. Have they brought it on themselves as a club? Yes.
"If you have mismanaged, if you've spent beyond means for a long, long time then eventually it comes home to roost. It has happened at a lot of clubs. The people who suffer are the supporters."
McCoist, in turn, said that Lennon should have kept quiet about what was wrong at Ibrox and was "disappointed" by the remarks, referring to an episode after Lennon's first Old Firm game as a manager in April 2010 when the Northern Irishman was involved in an exchange of jibes with Walter Smith, the former Rangers manager.
"I am a bit surprised if Neil has said that because I think I remember him telling Walter to mind his own business when he said something about Celtic," said McCoist. "I'm not starting a 'war of words' because it's the last thing the clubs need and it's the last thing the supporters want to hear, believe it or not. And it's the last thing Scottish football needs. But I would find it surprising if he said that.
"It isn't normal, especially when it isn't to do with the other club. I don't think our troubles are directly anything to do with anyone else. There is nothing direct to do with Celtic, so I would find that a little bit disappointing."
McCoist did agree with Lennon on one point, though: Rangers couldn't blame anyone else for their troubles. "I would have to accept that. No one has put us in the financial state we are in bar ourselves. Make no mistake, Rangers must shoulder the responsibility. It's nobody else's problem."
Lennon also took it upon himself to defend Celtic's transfer activity over the same period, in particular three years ago when the failure to sign Steven Fletcher from Hibernian was blamed for them not winning the title.
"We have cut our cloth accordingly for years and have had to bite the bullet a few times," he said. "People keep going back to the Fletcher thing. We didn't have the money Hibs were looking for so we had to let that one go. People say it cost us the title, but there is no guarantee that we'd have won the title if we got Steven Fletcher. It might have made us stronger, but it's all theories and hypotheses – the Steven Fletcher myth. All these figures keep getting bandied about but the most I've ever spent was on [Efrain] Juarez and Gary [Hooper] – £1.6m with add ons. Probably [Mo] Bangura as well."
Lennon also replied to comments made by Craig Burley, the former Celtic player now working as a pundit for ESPN, that Celtic players should be released if they to fail to win the title.
"People are trying to crank the pressure up now on us," said Lennon. "I saw this week a pundit be disrespectful to the rest of the SPL. And for me it's just pub talk. Being an ex-professional he should know how difficult it is to win titles. It's never given to you."