POLICE Scotland and Celtic were last night urged to hammer the “bampots” and “nutcases” responsible for the ugly scenes that flared outside Parkhead on Sunday evening - by bringing criminal charges against them and issuing life bans.

A crowd of several hundred fans ignored coronavirus lockdown restrictions and congregated outside the Glasgow club’s stadium to call for the removal of manager Neil Lennon in the wake of their 2-0 defeat to Ross County in the Betfred Cup.

Players and coaching staff had missiles hurled at them as they were escorted from the ground and trouble broke out when police, who deployed a dozen vehicles and the force helicopter, moved in to disperse the angry mob.

Perimeter fencing was ripped up and thrown at police officers during scuffles - which were filmed by some of the perpetrators on their mobile phones and posted online - and three of them suffered minor injuries.

Celtic immediately released a strongly-worded statement condemning the “violent scenes” as “unacceptable”, revealing that first team players had been left shaken by the extreme reaction to their loss and pledging to launch an investigation.

Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland yesterday described the flashpoints as "disgraceful" and warned that those who had caused them could be arrested.

Billy Brown, the chairman of the Scottish League Managers Association, was outraged by the treatment of Lennon and his players and has called for the police and the club do everything they can to root out the culprits and then hit them hard.

“It was out or order what happened,” said the former Hearts and Kilmarnock assistant. “I suppose supporters are allowed to vent their feelings, but what happened on Sunday night was completely out of order. I hope they catch the people who were involved in it and punish them.

“Scottish football has been taken over by Celtic’s bid to win 10-In-A-Row and by Rangers’ attempt to stop them and it has become unsavoury. What happened on Sunday night was an absolute disgrace. It doesn’t do football any favours.

“I am not surprised that with two policemen being injured the police are trying to find out who did it. People filmed it on their phones so they may be able to identify them and bring charges. It was a disgrace to football.

“This can’t go on. A big crowd like that congregating can’t be allowed. It is against the law to start with. It was absolutely shocking. What is happening with 10-In-A-Row has become ridiculous. It has become ugly.

“Celtic’s statement was good. They have handled it well by pledging to launch an investigation and identify the culprits. These sort of things do attract other people, troublemakers wanting to cause bother. But Celtic do need to have a look into it and try to find out who is responsible. If it was supporters they should ban them.”

Brown also expressed fears the unrest at Parkhead on Sunday night will delay the return of fans to stadiums at a time when Premiership clubs are spending large sums of money putting Covid-19 protocols in place and trying to persuade Holyrood to relax restrictions.

“There are people are dying in their thousands in the world today and we have got nutcases causing trouble over the result of a football game,” he said. “It isn’t helping football.

“Clubs are wanting to get people back into grounds and are telling the government they will behave well and adhere to the rules. This works against that. They can’t even behave themselves when they aren’t allowed into the game.

“Every manager and every club in Scotland will be up in arms about what has happened. It is not right. It won’t help football in this country get crowds back in. Are the government going to allow the turnstiles to open again if that is the sort of crowd that is going to turn up. Are they going to observe social distancing and the other restrictions? It isn’t a good advert for us.

“Football clubs are struggling. They have put all the proper protocols in place and deserve to get crowds back in. This won’t help their cause. I am disgusted by it.”

Brown accepts that Celtic have performed poorly in recent weeks, but he insisted that Lennon, who has won all four domestic trophies the Parkhead club have competed in since being appointed last year, deserves greater loyalty from fans and continued back from his board.

“Whatever they think about Neil Lennon or the players – and they are not playing well at the moment – supporters are supposed to support their team through good spells and bad spells and that is not happening,” he said.

“It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying Steven Gerrard isn’t up to the task at Rangers, is too naïve, isn’t experienced enough. Now he is flavour of the month and Neil is the one getting it.

“People have short memories. Neil Lennon has done well as a player and a manager. His record should give him a bit of leeway. But I know football now is very short-term. It has become poisoned. He must be under incredible pressure. He doesn’t need or deserve this.

“Social media is putting incredible pressure on managers. Any bampot can go online and start a campaign. Is it supporters who are doing it? Who knows? But social media has a big part to play in life now.”

Brown added: “I really feel for Neil. He has put his heart and soul into this job. He has been doing the same things that he was when they were doing well. The players have gone off the boil. It happens. His team is having a bad spell. But football teams have bad spells. Supporters should support them through that bad spell. That is what they are there for.

“All the managers are firmly behind Neil. That would be true of any manager in his position. He isn’t a daft boy. He knows if results don’t improve he might lose his job somewhere along the line. But the club have backed him and long may it continue because I think he will turn it around.”