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I cannot keep on putting the people that I love the most through this EXCLUSIVE: Protestant Northern Ireland football legend relives his own death threats nightmare.

Byline: TERRY NEILL

TODAY Neil Lennon will be thinking more about his family than himself.

I know how he feels, I've been there and it's a nigh impossible situation.

I'd taken over as player/manager of Northern Ireland in the early 1970s when the troubles first began.

I first received death threats while I was at Hull and had two young daughters.

The threats came in the form of letters and "funny parcels" sent to my office at Hull City Football Club, and one of my "crimes" was just referring to Northern Ireland as Ireland.

I was advised to look under my car, which I did constantly anytime I stopped or parked for less than ten minutes.

I also started looking over my shoulder walking down the street.

It's not a nice feeling.

We felt because of the contents of the packages it was the work of a crank - but who could take chances? That's why I can understand exactly the decision Neil Lennon has taken.

My thoughts at the time, as Neil's are now, were for my family.

They eventually hauled in a guy from the northwest of England, but I was protected in a way, now that we were playing our international games away from home.

Who knows the mind of that crank, and the one who phoned about Neil?

I can understand a little of what he's going through and I think he was quite right to decide not to play for Northern Ireland again.

Football, despite all the money that's in the game now, is still only a game and you can't put a price on life and personal safety.

Every moment you're away from your family you worry.

You occasionally worry when you're on the field if there is someone who might have a pot at you, but as an individual there's no way I'd give in to that.

By an accident of birth I was born a Protestant but in the late 70s I was proud to manage an Arsenal team that contained half the Republic of Ireland team and half the Northern Ireland team.

This latest turn of events is not just depressing for football but for the whole society.

When is Northern Ireland going to wake up?
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Comment:I cannot keep on putting the people that I love the most through this EXCLUSIVE: Protestant Northern Ireland football legend relives his own death threats nightmare.(News)
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUN
Date:Aug 23, 2002
Words:375
Previous Article:CELT'S FULL STATEMENT.
Next Article:I cannot keep on putting the people that I love the most through this; STAR OPENS HIS HEART OVER THREATS TERROR.


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