Yesterday, at his traditional Friday press conference, Ange Postecoglou was asked about the threats which were made to the referee Kevin Clancy in the aftermath of last week’s game. He answered that question very, very carefully, and he was brilliant.
Buried in his comments, although not too deep that you had to properly dig for them, was an implied critique not just of some of the more hysterical pro-Ibrox voices in the press, but of The Mooch as well and his sheer irresponsibility.
We have spoken at length about that on here, about how the Ibrox manager lets his mouth get ahead of his brain. This is why he carries that particular nickname, because he reminds me of the former Trump White House aide Anthony Scaramucci.
Last weekend, the guy who said he was happy with every aspect of refereeing, who had vowed never to criticise VAR, had a meltdown.
But let’s be fair to him, he wasn’t the only one who did.
There has been a collective loss of sanity all around Scottish football, especially amidst some of the commentators who would not hear a bad word against refs when VAR was pummelling us and now, because a few decisions have gone the way of our club, are now flaying them every chance they get, and especially this week, of course.
Look back on the time Ange has been at Celtic.
Aside from a generalised criticism about how VAR had given so many decisions against us that it would not, and could not, “balance itself out” over the season, he has kept his own counsel on these things. On top of that, at no time has he offered a criticism of a specific official or officials. Neither has our club.
But not everyone in our game has been so careful or moderate in their language and when those in positions of responsibility act irresponsibly – such as when a coach tries to stick the nut on a rival manager – then things like this, threats to refs and their families, are what happens.
This is the week in which the Ibrox lunatic fringe looks at a second major resignation for their club and thinks that they forced that, that they are now fully in control of everything that happens over there and this is a dangerous idea to fill their heads with.
Ange pointed out that it’s the clubs themselves who have the greatest responsibility here. “It’s a really timely reminder to all of us about the language we use and the reasoning’s we use behind things,” said the gaffer.
“We all understand we work in a public space and with that comes scrutiny, but that should begin and end within the professions we work in, not go into our personal lives, and particularly with officials because, for the most part, we have clubs or supporter bases we would like to think would go into bat for us in situations like this. But the officials are kind of left out on their own.”
This is as close as Ange will come to suggesting that the mood is set from the top of the house, and in particular the mood of the fans. They have been surrounded by this idea that the world is against them for a long time, and this week only reinforces that.
We also have to remember that The Mooch’s comments after the game were only following on from his insinuating, before it, that having only Celtic fans in the stadium could intimidate the refs towards giving decisions our way. He also blamed our club for the ticket standoff, and said that he was only repeating what he had been told by his bosses.
It seems clear to me that The Mooch was who he had in mind when he spoke about the way in which the outcome was perceived to have been influenced by the decision to chop off the one Morelos put in the net. He didn’t even bother to mention the outcry over Jota; only a handful of people in the country thought that worth squealing over.
“If anyone analysed that game and thinks one moment decided that, then they are not really looking at the big picture. From my perspective there is a decision there where everyone has opinions on it but it’s not fact-based because it’s not like it’s an offside or something you can clearly see. It’s an opinion-based thing. Everyone gives their opinion and ultimately one person has to make the decision … The fact people think one individual — in this case the official — and one decision has decided the outcome of the game is just not right.”
There is very little doubt who that barb is directed at, and Ange has made his point quite brilliantly without ever once using The Mooch’s name … or having an outright dig at his club. This is an example of his subtlety and intelligence.
It’s the difference between sending a pointed message and a dog-whistle to the lunatic fringe.
The club across town would do well to learn it, if they even care to.