If I told you that two penalties had been awarded
during a six-game SPL weekend, you wouldn't find that
too suprising. If I then said that two of the matches finished
1-0, that would be no great shock either. And if I told you
that the two 1-0 winners were Rangers and Celtic
then 99.99% of you would be able to immediately identify which
sides were awarded the penalties. The other 0.01% comprise
the sort of people who get surprised if fat guy in a red suit
doesn't pop down their chimney once a year.
This farce really has gone on far too long. The weekend of March
2/3 should be the last time this happens. The history of
the Old Firm is littered with dodgy decisions in their
favour. The other teams find it difficult enough to compete
without having to worry about whether a hard-earned point will
be lost thanks to pusillanimous refereeing.
I'm not saying that our referees are bent,simply that the pressures
of operating with over 50,000 pairs of lungs yelling at full
pitch for every decision going MUST have an effect. Whatever
the reason, our game is a laughing stock because of it. There's
an old joke that goes something like this:
Q "What was the Rangers/Celtic score today?"
Q "Who missed the penalty?"
At any rate I find it hard to believe that any other team would
receive the sort of awards the big two get. It's almost reached
the stage where giving an Old Firm player a nasty look in the
six-yard box constitutes a spot-kick!
There may be no solution but that doesn't mean that the authorities
can be absolved from tryng to do something about this ridiculous
blot on the Scottish game. Why not try English referees?
After all, these officials are now full-time professionals and
used to high-octane fixtures. I'm not suggesting they are perfect
- they make nearly as many mistakes as their Scottish counterparts.
But they would come to the Scottish game free from the preconceptions
and biases (intentional or otherwise) of the Scottish officials.
They would also be free from the assumption peddled by fans
of the Big Two that the referee is a mason/priest. And
those same supporters, perplexed as to why continental refs
prove harder to con than Scottish ones, may just learn a thing
or two. At any rate,it's worth a try. Apart from a reputation
for letting the Old Firm walk all over the opposition, what
have we got to lose?
The future of Tommy Burns is clear. As mud that is. Burns
has rejected an approach from Kilmarnock to discuss a
possible return to the manager's job at Rugby Park -
a post he filled successfully between 1992-94 before leaving
for Celtic in circumstances which did little to enhance
Burns has stated that he wants to stay at Celtic Park to carry
out his role as youth coach. Come on Tommy. Who are you kidding?
Youth coach at Parkhead is about as fulfilling a position
as deckchair attendant on the Titanic. Who was the last
regular first team player to come through the ranks? Even Rangers
have a more successsful track record with young players.
A good case in point is Stevie Murray. Rejected by Celtic
at 16 he is now enjoying a good run in the first team at Kilmarnock.
What can be more satisfying for a coach? Watching a young lad
leave, knowing he will never get a chance? Or seeing him take
on experienced players at the top level?
Burns has said he wants to return to management in the future.
Where? His options are severely limited. He's already turned
down St Johnstone this season. That was more understandable.
He could see where they were headed and was happy to let his
former sidekick Billy Stark take over as the fall guy
there. But if the Killie offer isn't enough to tempt Burns,
what is? And, after knocking back two SPL clubs, one of them
5th in the league and challenging for Europe, who would bother
to ask him? Hibs, which might have seemed the natural
choice, aren't going to be sacking any managers for a long time
to come, so where does that leave Burns?
There are only two other clubs in the SPL which might appeal
and neither look likely to have a vacancy for a while. These
are: Aberdeen (going nicely under Skovdahl) and
Livingston (where, admittedly, the Celtic connection
is strong). Surely no English clubs will come in for him considering
his poor record at Reading.
So, what is the truth of the matter? Burns has been heavily
touted as No 2 to Berti Vogts. If he does get offered
that position, we shall see just how "committed"
he is to Celtic. Four years as assistant with the potential
to take over as Scotland boss? Or Parkhead tea-boy?
Don't be surprised to hear a comment along the lines of "my
country called, how could I say no" emanating from
the ginger-haired one in the near future. That would confirm
what many Kilmarnock supporters have thought ever since Burns
walked out on them in 1994 - that Tommy is just a Number
Here's a poser. Sky select the Aberdeen
V Celtic Scottish Cup quarter-final tie as their live TV
offering. That leaves the BBC with their pick from the
other three ties. Which one do they go for? They could have
picked the two Uniteds, Dundee and Ayr.
A team with the most consistent Cup record outside the Old Firm
up against this term's knockout shock troops with three Premier
scalps so far this season and a League Cup Final appearance
already booked. Tasty,eh?
Or if that wasn't good enough, what about the battle of the
jags? Partick - looking good for two successive promotions
and aiming for their first semi-final since 1979 - against their
Inverness namesakes - conquerors of Celtic two years
ago and with another shock win at Tynecastle under their belt
in this season's campaign.
Four well-matched teams. Two terrific ties. Both provided thrilling
games which ended 2-2 with everything to play for in the replay
The remaining tie was a foregone conclusion. Forfar V Rangers.
True, the Glasgow team had already struggled against Second
Division opposition (Berwick) previously in the tournament but
the chances of it happening again were extremely remote to say
the least. Coming three days after a UEFA Cup tie against
Feyenoord, and four days before the return, even Mr
Magoo would have seen that the Gers would take this
opportunity to rest key players and let the second string have
But unfortunately Mr Magoo is too much of a visionary to be
employed by BBC Scotland's sports department. Off they
trotted to Station Park to cover a non-event as Rangers reserves
strolled to a 6-0 win with Billy Dodds - who can't
even get a game at cards at Ibrox - scoring a hat-trick.
This was a golden opportunity to show that there is more to
Scottish football than the Old Firm and the BBC blew it. The
Rangers-Feyenoord tie was also live on BBC Scotland so it wasn't
as if Ibrox fans were being deprived of seeing their side on
the box. Rangers are on TV almost as often as Carol Vorderman
- and that's saying something!
It would be interesting to see the viewing figures
for the Station Park farce. Certainly, supporters of other Scottish
clubs were less than enthralled by it. Websites on the Rivals
network were inundated with requests from digital viewers for
instructions on how to access ITV English regions so that they
could watch the Blackburn - Spurs League Cup Final instead.
Something which those behind SPL TV would do well to take into