Last week, I wrote that a long-standing joke online is that if you take Tavernier in any “anytime scorer” bet with a major bookie before the start of every match involving Ibrox you have a chance of coming out of the weekend with a profit. I speculated that this is such an obvious strategy for making money that perhaps that’s the source of our problems.
Perhaps, I suggested, somebody in officialdom has decided that’s a viable way to pad the retirement fund. If that’s not being looked into somewhere, maybe it should be?
The other long-standing joke amongst Scottish football fans is that every game they play revolves around this simple calculation; “they haven’t had their penalty yet.” I realised yesterday that in recent weeks things have gotten so bad that we’ve more and more been saying something new, and it’s a fundamental shift in how we view officiating.
“They haven’t had their second penalty yet.”
That’s how I put it yesterday, and to my complete lack of surprise they got it about five minutes after I’d uttered those words on my supporter’s bus on the way to our game. And most people around me had been waiting for it along with me.
At one point after the Hearts debacle at Ibrox, I had said to someone that if Tavernier misses one in a game you can virtually count on him getting a chance to score another one before the match ends, and so it proved.
In the aftermath of the game, Livingston’s manager barely raised a squeak over this phenomenon. I keep on hearing people say that Celtic should be calling this stuff out, and I agree to an extent.
But I’ve started to ask myself a different question in recent years and once again it’s what was foremost in my thoughts when I was thinking through the weekend’s football.
Celtic doesn’t care because this stuff barely affects us.
It barely affects us because we just keep on winning. Yes, it keeps the Ibrox club on our tail and it makes sure that Operation: Save Clement has gotten off to a good start, but we’re not the ultimate victims of what goes on in the official’s room whenever the Ibrox club plays domestic football.
After yesterday, Martindale’s hapless team has lost five games in a row. They are bottom of the league having played a game more than both Ross County and St Johnstone, and two more than Aberdeen. They are in real trouble.
They are in serious danger of going down this year, that’s the reality of their predicament. They can’t afford to be on the end of decisions which are clearly designed to make sure Clement gets a honeymoon.
So, if they don’t care, if they’re not raising a stink, if they’re just taking it on the chin, why in God’s name should Celtic put in their hard yards on their behalf? Or on behalf of Hearts, or Aberdeen or Hibs or any of the other clubs which routinely pay a much higher prices for our “standards” of refereeing than we do? They suffer for it, and they are content to accept it. Until they start taking the matter seriously, why should we?
This isn’t even a joke anymore; it’s blossomed into a scandal. The first decision they got yesterday was an outrage. Nobody really believes they deserved it, but they can’t sack a third manager in the space of two years and so this guy was always going to get something of an easy ride and a helping hand and that’s exactly what they have provided.
Yes, Celtic should speak out.
But at the end of the day, why should it only be up to us? Why should we be carrying the water for every other club in this country? Their conduct is pathetic. They roll over and accept this stuff as if it’s simply another part of the game. Until they decide not to take this stuff lying down decisions like yesterday will keep on happening.
The first step is obvious; clubs need to vote down VAR and put it in the bin where it belongs. But it cannot stop there. If these people start to take this seriously VAR is doomed, and that’s how we’ll know.
Otherwise, I have no sympathy for any of them.
We’re already on “when do you think Ibrox will get their second penalty?” How much worse do things have to get before these people start speaking out properly?