28th February – Today In Our Footballing History

28/02/2001 Belfast Norway 0-4

Maik Taylor, Aaron Hughes, Peter Kennedy (Danny Griffin), Gerry Taggart (Stuart Elliott), Colin Murdock, Jon McCarthy (Damien Johnson), Jim Magilton, Neil Lennon (Mark Williams), David Healy (Andrew Kirk), Glenn Ferguson (Phil Gray), Jeff Whitley (Danny Sonner)

This match will be remembered for the booing of Neil Lennon by a section of the Windsor Park crowd. Lennon had recently signed for Glasgow Celtic from Leicester City but had also recently given his backing to an ‘all-Ireland’ football team. Lennon was substituted at half-time and subsequentrly left the ground.

A month later against the Czech Republic Northern Ireland’s fans cheered Lennon every time he touched the ball, and many stayed behind afterwards to chant, “There’s only one Neil Lennon.” Whenever anyone began singing sectarian rubbish, other fans would drown it out with the new theme tune: “We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland.” It worked until next year’s death threat.

Neill Lennon:

“In the main, the reception I received was brilliant. A lot of people got behind me tonight and I was touched by that. There are minorities in all walks of like who make trouble for everyone else. But there are a lot more good people than bad in this country. I hope to be back but first I will talk things over with my club and family and take it from there.”

IFA President Jim Boyce:

“We live in a sad, sick, sectarian society. Some people in this country are determined never to forget the past. It is so tragic.”

Gerry Taggart:

“People have to realise that heckling a player because of who he plays for or because of his religion is not going to help Northern Ireland now or in the long run. They cannot be allowed to chase out one of our finest players. It’s hard to believe that some people might actually believe that any Catholic who plays for Northern Ireland does not care for the team. How can people think that way? I have always played with pride for the shirt – and so has Neil Lennon.”

Lennon to think over NI future

The Celtic divide in Belfast

Copyright: Colin McMaster

Picture: Colin McMaster

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Northern Ireland Footballing Greats

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