Socrates MacSporran

Socrates MacSporran
No I am not Chick Young, but I can remember when Scottish football was good

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Whit Aboot It - Celtic Got Their Erses Skelped

I DARE SAY we will see a major outbreak of “Whitabootery” as Ra Peepul's keyboard warriors division – not to be confused with the Lap Top Loyal by the way – get their teeth into Celtic's 7-1 loss at Paris St Germain.

 Shell-shocked, no other words needed

True it is as yet only the single-digit IQ'd Peepul who have rushed to gloat, more-sensible members of the opposition tribe are well aware, bad though a 1-7 reverse makes Celtic look, they are still the length of Argyll Street better than their traditional opponents across the city.

I can see a rush on PSG replica shirts, as the new “must have” fashion accessory for Ibrox, while I suspect Ra Peepul's top songwriters are already busy with a celebratory ditty to mark Paris under the floodlights.

Aye well, whatever it takes to get you through the night. But, what does it say about the state of Scottish football, that Celtic, seemingly invincible in the Scottish game, can be so-far off the pace in Europe.

Supposedly, you get what you pay for, and while Celtic's squad salary total is by far the biggest in Scotland – compared to PSG's, Celtic are the cash-strapped country cousins. But, as has been proved time and again in football, having the highest-paid players or being the richest club is no guarantee of winning the major trophies.

Certainly, Celtic are still favourites to pip Anderlecht for the Europa League place, by finishing third in their group, but, if they are to survive and prosper, even in the lower level of that league, Celtic will certainly have to defend better than they did in Paris.

The other kind of keyboard warrior – such as your average LTL foot soldier – will no doubt come up with the usual “Jackie Baillie”. “Everyone knows Celtic need a central defender capable of operating at Champions League level”. “The quality gap between the domestic game and Europe was again exposed.” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera” – as old Yul Brynner used to say in the role which made him.

All true, but, how do you justify paying such a player Champions League wages on Scottish League income? And, how is he meant to maintain Champions League intensity when playing in a league in which, Celtic could well include three of their Under-15 team every week and still win?

Maybe it's time the SFA set-up another think tank or high-level review body, to come-up with an expensively-worked-out report as to why Scottish football is seen as shite – a report they can then throw into the same cupboard as all the other think tank and review body reports which, over the past decades, have endeavoured to show: Well Scottish football isn't really shite – it is just perceived as such and there's not much wrong that a wee bit of cosmetic tinkering could not make worse.

I had to laugh in the build-up at the newspaper pieces proudly declaiming – Celtic had something PSG could never have – History. Three responses to that:

  1. Your history is behind you, seen through a rear-view mirror, and the view is always bigger and better through the windscreen in front of you.
  2. The best bit of Celtic's history is now 50-years out of date.
  3. Go and read 'Ozymandias', by Percy Bysse Shelley.

I HAVE been interested in football's attitude to the on-going trial of television replays of contentious match incidents, something long established in the likes of rugby, cricket and tennis.

The Hand of God, but, would a TMO have definitely said: "No Goal"?

Some say this will eradicate such incidents as England' still dispute third goal in the 19 World Cup Final, or Maradona's “Hand of God” goal in Mexico 198. Mind you, from a Scottish perspective, Geoff Hurst's Wembley shot never crossed the line – it was that obvious, while the ball played wee Diego, rather than him playing the ball. Don't now what the fuss was all about.

Any way, as anyone who watched Scotland's agonising loss to the All Blacks on Saturday is aware by now – asking the Television Match Official – the TMO – to intervene, doesn't always clarify matters. Take the incident when Stuart Hogg was taken-out in mid-air by one of the All Blacks. Initially, the match referee was thinking of a yellow card, which is the normal, minimum sanction for such a challenge, but, the TMO allegedly talked him out of this action, rightly in my view, arguing that Scotland scrum-half Ali Price got in the way, and thus, the All Black hit Hoggie fractionally before his feet touched the ground. Not such a serious hit – so a penalty only.

Now, had Price not been there, the hit would have been earlier, and at the very least, the All Black player would have seen yellow, more likely red – but, the argument is still raging four days on. Then there was the incident when Scotland were pressing, and All Black captain Kieran Reid slapped the ball out of Jonny Gray's hand, with the line gaping – thereby saving a seemingly-certain try.

The referee, in spite of the entreaties of the Scotland players, refused to bring-in the TMO, if he had, Reid would certainly have got a yellow card, and Scotland would almost-certainly have been awarded a match-winning Penalty Try. But, the TMO wasn't called in.

There were also a couple of disputed calls in the England v Australia match. So, the message to football is – by all means introduce TMOs, but, the human element is still in there, and the system is not fool-proof – far less, Willie Collum or Andrew Dallas-proof.

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