Craig Thomson has had some 36 hours.
He woke yesterday to find himself the target of a number of media articles, revealing that he had attended an “elite referee’s course” prior to the game at the weekend, where he made one of the worst decisions of the season so far and gave Celtic a penalty for a handball incident which never was.
This jarring, and very public, ridiculing of Thomson and his bosses at the SFA is no accident.
The media was fed that juicy little titbit by somebody.
Thomson and his colleagues are being given a warning, via the press, that this kind of thing – i.e. giving key decision to Celtic – will not be tolerated.
It can prove decidedly hazardous to your career.
Earlier this season I decided I was going to keep track of refereeing mistakes; I abandoned the project very early in the game, mostly because these kind of glaring, obvious, errors aren’t as common as a lot of people seem to think.
The Honest Mistake quotient has been pretty low this season, although there have occasionally been baffling, and horrendous, decisions and even individual games. Thomson himself was involved in a shocker between Sevco and Dundee earlier in the season, and Andrew Dallas, a few weeks ago, presided over a truly abysmal display involving Celtic, both of which I commented on at the time.
What the media’s gushing of anger hides in this case is that Thomson’s performance at the weekend was pretty good overall; febrile minds screaming about multiple penalty awards that should have gone St Johnstone’s way are at it.
He gave one terrible decision our way; in every single other one key moment he was 100% correct, and the media seems very reluctant to say so.
The rule here seems to be that because he gave one of these decisions our way he should have compounded the error by giving another to the Perth club, or “evened up the score”, which is another way of saying these people think he should have acted in a manner that was totally corrupt.
I have no love for Scottish referees.
If some of them aren’t biased they are hopelessly incompetent instead and a ref who makes a mistake like the one we saw at the weekend doesn’t belong at an elite gathering of top officials from the continent; it’s a joke.
But that information isn’t normally published.
I’m sure he’s not the first ref to have attended a seminar abroad who made dreadful errors before or after attending one.
Hugh Dallas ran the seminar, and his own “mistake” was a much more grotesque one for which he ought to have been run out of the game. Of course, he landed on his feet instead, with the SFA having clearly given him a glowing personal and professional reference to smooth his path.
But not all refs involved in such dire decisions end up all over the papers, which is why I find this a little disturbing.
I had some sympathy for St Johnstone at the weekend, but it’s evaporated over the course of the last day and a half. The wailing coming from them is unreal for a team who lost four other goals in the match. It strips us of credit. It suggests we got lucky.
We didn’t get lucky, we outplayed them once Dembele came on and we stepped it up.
But you know what?
That penalty gave us our equaliser; there was a lot of football still to be played in that game, and we played it whilst their manager and some of his players felt sorry for themselves, and that’s a shame because they were excellent for the first half and their attacking intent was a welcome respite from teams who put every player behind the ball against us.
I think we’d have beaten them anyway – we’re that kind of team this season – but they played into our hands with their attitude to that decision.
Heads went down.
Their players got nippy and started to lose their discipline.
In his after-match interviews it’s pretty clear that their manager had completely lost his, as well as his objectivity.
Hysteria broke out on social media too, as the Sevconuts declared it proof that we are the establishment club now, a subject I covered last night. It’s contemptible, but if it makes them even more complacent and arrogant I’m all for it. They can kid themselves on that the 27 point gap is an artificial construct and the result of a rigged game; see how long they can comfort themselves with such a nonsensical bed warmer.
We’ll be 40 points clear by the season’s end.
Mark my words, though; a message has gone out here to everyone who officiates one of our games between now and the end of this season; Celtic cannot be the beneficiaries of these kind of decisions. Anyone who gives one will face a similar punishment beating in the press. It is a low order tactic, but just what we expect from the low order individuals who hover on the fringes of the game here in Scotland. Performance reviews, which have forever been kept under lock and key, will suddenly be getting passed around the press rooms. Nudges and winks will give pet journalists a steer in the direction of embarrassing information.
Rob McLean of BBC Scotland had a nice idea; let refs discuss these kind of calls after games. Odd that this is one of the first times a major media outlet has supported such a change. Because some of the fans have been calling for it for years.
Isn’t it amazing that one decision in Celtic’s favour has people talking about reform once more?
I like McLean. He’s an honest guy, but really … where’s this suggestion been? It’s past due for something like this. I hope we can rely on the BBC continuing to support it.
Yet this new found optimism for change is strikingly similar to the way calls for Celtic to leave Scottish football to “give other people a chance” are suddenly in vogue, although this was the sort of thing we were being told would spark “Armageddon” not that long ago.
Our success really does make some people act crazy, doesn’t it?