Yesterday, when The Mooch allowed Thistle to score a goal direct from the kick-off and level his team’s Scottish Cup tie I knew it would be the start of the canonization of this guy in the eyes of the Scottish media. What I didn’t expect was a blatant attempt to contrast his behaviour and that of his team with our own club.
But we should never underestimate the media’s ability to find some stick to poke us with. This one though is a very, very poor one.
In fact, I’d go so far as to call it pathetic. They have dredged up a Third Round League Cup tie from 1995, against Raith Rovers, and the wailing and moaning of notorious Celtic hater Jimmy Nicholl, who was their manager at the time.
Here’s the background to these events.
We had lost the League Cup final to them the year before, on penalties.
This was a chance for us to get some small measure of revenge, but as was not untypical of us at that time we weren’t really up to much.
In extra time, we huffed and puffed and it looked like more penalties would be required. But lo and behold, Simon Donnelly came up with a very late winner and spared us that. The goal came with almost no time left on the clock.
Naturally, Nicholl was frustrated. Losing to us always frustrated him. Anything he could cling to would frequently be used as an excuse, and this time he used so-called “unsporting conduct” from us. At the time, virtually nobody took that claim seriously.
The Celtic Wiki has a number of match reports from that game, including one by Keevins, and none of them appeared to make a big deal out of the incident in question although all of them point out that Nicholl did. So what actually happened that afternoon?
“Raith’s keeper, Scott Thomson, had kicked the ball out of play when he saw Celtic’s Peter Grant lying in agony, suffering from cramp, and after the midfield player had been treated, Rudi Vata took the throw-in and hurled the ball into Raith’s territory where van Hooijdonk nodded the ball into touch instead of allowing a Raith player to take possession.”
The writer of that, and who did not make a big deal out of it, was Jim Traynor, writing at the time for The Herald. Does that sound to you in any way similar to yesterday’s incident? Vata throws the ball into their half, Van Hooijdonk knocks it over them … and we then subsequently win the ball back off of them when it is put back into play.
This is how Traynor wrote the moment up during his actual match-report.
“In the closing seconds, though, Raith lost possession deep in their own half, van Hooijdonk sent in a cross from the right, substitute Andy Walker got a touch on the ball and when Thomson was able only to parry the ball, Donnelly pounced.”
Absolutely nothing to see. Nothing. A clear case of them having the ball back and then giving it up through slack play. The only “unsporting” thing about it was the bitching Nicholl did at the time and which some of the hacks are trying to do right now.
This is how it was described in The Independent, by their guy David McKinney.
“Deep inside injury time, Scott Thomson, the Raith goalkeeper, sent the ball out of play to allow treatment to a Celtic player, but on the restart Pierre Van Hooijdonk, who was deep inside the Raith half, headed the throw in out of play instead of allowing the ball to run to the Raith defenders. Under pressure, Raith lost possession from the throw, Thomson parried an Andy Walker shot and Simon Donnelly whipped the loose ball into the unguarded net.”
Again, Van Hooijdonk doesn’t go on a mazy run, he doesn’t try to beat anyone, the ball gets punted up to him and he does the right thing but putting it out. We’ve done our bit for sportsmanship. How many times did Nicholl and his team want the ball back? It’s a ludicrous charge and one only someone bitter, hurting and anti-Celtic would have made.
Here’s the take from Hugh Keevins. Yes, the man himself. Who now thrives on controversy but even then would not have hesitated if the thought we’d been at it.#
“Celtic’s winner came after Raith Rovers had voluntarily kicked the ball out of play so that the home team’s Peter Grant could receive treatment for injury. Then the ball was thrown back into play by Rudi Vata, it was aimed in the direction of the Dutchman, who headed it over the dead-ball line once again and motioned his team- mates forward. Raith Rovers subsequently lost possession of the ball from their throw-in and Celtic capitalised.”
So what exactly did we do wrong here except scored a late winner against a team managed by a notorious Celtic hater? Where exactly is the offence against sportsmanship? All I can see is an offence against logic and a bending of fact to suit a shady narrative.