A SHERIFF yesterday showed mercy on a Johnstone man who threatened to kill Hibernian manager Neil Lennon in a foul-mouthed Facebook rant.

Rangers fan Sean Cowan said he would get a gun and shoot Mr Lennon in the head after the former Celtic captain and manager cupped his ears in celebration during a game between Hibernian and Rangers at Ibrox.

Glasgow University graduate Cowan, 54, made the remarks on the Facebook page of Rangers fan site Follow Follow on August 12, following Hibs’ 3-2 victory.

At around 10pm that night, Cowan went on Facebook and posted three comments, which read: “Somebody give me a weapon and I will shoot this little terrorist c**t in the head with impunity.

“I’m serious. I would.

“I can get one, not a problem. Police Scotland are probably all over it now though. I have previous for firearms so I’m expecting a chap soon.”

Cowan, of Ramsay Avenue, tried to cover his tracks by deleting the messages from the social media site but he was snared thanks to an unnamed witness who took screenshots of the messages and passed them to police.

He admitted his guilt over the remarks at a previous Paisley Sheriff Court hearing, striking a deal with prosecutors which saw him plead guilty to one charge in exchange for the second being dropped.

Cowan pleaded guilty to breaching the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, in that he “did communicate material to another person which consisted of, contained or implied a threat or an incitement to carry out a seriously violent act against a person or persons of a particular description and was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm.”

A charge that he had also breached the Communications Act 2003

Procurator fiscal depute Tom Bowman said the matter was reported to Police Scotland’s Football Co-ordination Unit on August 14 – two days after the comments had been made.

Defence solicitor Charlie McCusker said Cowan’s threats were “stupid, drunken bravado” which he had no intention of following through on.

The lawyer added: “He has had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol for many years. He describes himself as a ‘functioning alcoholic.’

“He obtained a 2:1 in English from the University of Glasgow, he is clearly an intelligent man and enjoys reading. He has let himself down on this occasion.”

Sheriff Craig Harris could have jailed Cowan, who has previous convictions for assault and assault to severe injury, for up to 12 months.

But he placed him on a Community Payback Order, which will see him supervised by social workers for two years and do 200 hours’ unpaid work.

He also placed him on a Restriction of Liberty Order, which will see him electronically tagged and have to remain within his home between 9pm and 9am for the next three months.

The sentences, which were reduced because Cowan admitted his guilt, were imposed as a direct alternative to custody.

As he spared him prison, Sheriff Harris told Cowan: “These were vile messages. I have no doubt they would have caused any reasonable person reading them alarm. You can’t explain what motivated you to commit this offence other than alcohol.”

Lennon had also been the subject of a probe over his goal celebrations but police later confirmed he would not face any action.