The Celtic manager, who returns to the dugout this evening at St Johnstone after a five-match ban, also said he would be watching with interest the punishment meted out to Craig Brown, the Aberdeen manager, after his confrontation with John Boyle, the Motherwell chairman.
Lennon was initially banned for six matches after a row on the touchline at a game against Hearts at Tynecastle in November. He was then sentenced to a further four games for his part in the touchline row with Ally McCoist, the Rangers assistant manager, after the Scottish Cup tie. Celtic appealed both decisions and had the first ban reduced and forced the SFA to accept that the second had to run concurrently.
Lennon, speaking to the assembled media for the first time in more than month, made it clear he feels he has been singled out for punishment. Asked if he felt different rules applied to him, he said: “Yeah, I do. But again that is maybe me being me. Other people might tell me differently. The six-game ban for the original incident at Tynecastle I felt was a gross over-reaction.”
He said he only wanted to be treated the same as any other manager. “Is there anything different from what Craig Brown did to what I did? Is there?” he said referring to the former Scotland manager’s argument with Boyle after the Motherwell v Aberdeen match earlier this month.
“All these people are telling me I’ve got to grow up and I need so show more maturity and there is the oldest manager in the game -- with 30, 40 years of experience -- probably doing a lot worse than what I did, even though it gets laughed off, I get demonised for it,” he said.
Pointing out there was a difference in the way the incidents had been portrayed, he added: “You know what, lads? I am used to it. I am not looking for sympathy.”
He agreed he would be watching with interest the punishment meted out to Brown. “I’m just looking for fairness. That’s all. Other managers criticise referees, am I the only manager in the world who criticises referees? Sometimes it seemed that way this season,” he said.
Asked if he would do anything differently if he could turn back the clock, he answered: “No.”
He also was blunt about whether the football world would see “a different Neil Lennon”.
“I wouldn’t have thought so,” he said. “I felt after the Rangers game there was an over-reaction. And I felt I did not deserve an extra ban for what happened. Am I going to change? No. Well I might not give the referees as hard a time as I used to.”
He said he had been supported through the ban by the Celtic board and by conversations with his predecessors Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill.
“They’ve been very supportive the whole time I have been in charge and we’ve spoken about the experiences they had here,” said Lennon.