John Hartson has made an excellent point in the last couple of days about how this title race might be decided by the officials. In a sense, he’s correct. In another sense he’s dead wrong. On balance, he has a point.
But then, Celtic fans have always known this.
Indeed, it has been one of the great fears of mine and other supporters.
We are well aware that the refs might have the decisive advantage here and the closer we get to the end the bigger that might be. Certainly, the media wants to push them towards that.
They would love it if this title was decided by refs, but only if it goes against us. In that case they can say “oh look, all those pro-Celtic decisions balanced out after all!”
They have no shame so you know that they will do this with absolute relish.
Still, we have to understand what we mean when we talk about officials deciding this. This is what the media will wilfully misrepresent, because there are bound to be stories, providing we win this, about how officials did decide it.
But officials don’t decide games by erroneously awarding corners of throw-ins, which are what some of the more preposterous claims made this weekend are.
It’s up to the opposition not to switch off because they feel aggrieved; that’s not our fault or the fault of the refs. No, I’m talking about the moments which take matters out of the player’s hands.
I’m talking about blatant off-sides. I’m talking about failures to book or send off opposing players for brutal challenges. I’m talking about not giving penalties or worse, giving penalties which should never be awarded in a million years.
Those are the kinds of decisions which change games, and we should be clear about that.
They are the decisions where refereeing has an actual, easy to comprehend, impact on the final score.
The blatant decisions, the game-changers.
Very few of the calls which have allegedly gone our way fit into that category.
But there are plenty of examples of decisions going against us or in favour of a certain other club which do fit that category and which have had an impact on the points totals.
Hartson knows what he’s talking about, and we have long been afraid of the possibility. We have to stay focussed and we have to stay alert, particularly as we know that officials are being pressed to give decisions against us by the constant highlighting of those which fall in our favour, whether real or not. It is a danger we must be acutely tuned in to.
And I suspect that we are. Ange has certainly warned the players against it, and he will continue to. The important thing is to just keep on doing our own thing. As long as we’re defending well, passing the ball good and putting it in the net we take the matter out of their hands and keep it where it belongs; in our own.
Do that and we have this in our pockets.