Steve's Sympathy

Steve Lomas has tried to contact Neil Lennon over his decision to quit international football following the death threats he received before the game against Cyprus on Wednesday.

Steve, who missed the game through injury and would otherwise have been captain, says:

"It is disappointing; there is no place in sport for sectarianism and that was sectarianism in its crudest form.

"Neil is a good lad and it is just because he plays for Celtic; it is disappointing that we have got a few mindless idiots that do these things.

"It is ridiculous, but I can understand and sympathise with him at the end of the day - you can't be dealing with this every time you come home.

"Certain elements of the crowd booed him a while ago and I think we had got over that; he got a good response when he played the next game and he was going to be captain for last night's game.

"Then something like that happens, and I suppose he just got to the stage where he thinks he doesn't need to put his family through it, as much as he does like playing for Northern Ireland.

"There was an accusation levelled at him last season about playing for his country but he had patella tendonitis and had an operation to try and cure it in the summer.

"When you play on it, you can't train for two or three days afterwards and he had that much football playing for Celtic in the Champions' League there were going to be times when he had to pull out.

"There are no two ways about it; generally, on the whole, the Northern Ireland people are shocked and disappointed because we have enough troubles as it is - to bring them into sport is bad, and the IFA have been trying to take the sectarianism out of sport.

"There is enough of it that goes on anyway but to bring it into sport - what chance are you ever going to have of a successful Northern Ireland team and to integrate the two communities together?

"I tried to phone him today but I suppose every man and his dog has; I can't speculate about how he feels but he must have got to the stage where he thinks 'I don't need this'.

"He has got a 10 year old daughter, a lot of family living in Ireland, and I suppose he has got to the stage where he thinks does he really need this for a game of football?

"Neil plays for Celtic but it is ridiculous that these people don't like that and I am very disappointed for him.

"I have seen Neil grow up and I have seen what he has been through to make it in the game; he got released by Manchester City and was totally devastated.

"He picked himself up and went to Crewe before he got spondulitis in the back and had to sit out for almost a year and a half.

"He dedicated himself so well in that time - I lived with him and I saw it.

"He came back again, got a move to Leicester, did very well for Martin O' Neill, and then went to Celtic with him.

"It hasn't been an easy upbringing for him but he showed great dedication and worked hard.

"I know he enjoys playing for Northern Ireland and always has - the fact it has nothing to do with sport is disappointing and I repeat that sectarianism has no place in the game.

"He is a great lad and Northern Ireland is missing out on a good player - and with a squad that is as pitifully thin as it is we need all our good players playing."

Steve is hoping to make a come back for West Ham soon, though not in time for the Arsenal game.

Having not been able to play in the Cyprus game, he adds:

"I missed another cap and that was disappointing because, before you know it, you are finished with international football, and you look back to how many more caps you could have had."