Many Celtic fans have been of the opinion that the club has been treated less than fairly by officialdom on occasion. Historically we have seen Celtic Park closed for a month following crowd trouble at Ibrox. We have seen a shameful attempt to force the club to remove the Irish flag of its founders from the stand upon threat of expulsion from the league. We have witnessed an official hold up the registration of Jorge Cadette for almost six weeks at a vital stage in the season. On the field I have witnessed refereeing displays which are at best mystifying and at worst biased.
How then are we to take Paul Paton’s astonishing attack on Celtic which is much publicised in the press this week? He said among other things…
‘I think Celtic as a club can manipulate people more than Dundee United can. That kind of thing has been happening for years. We have seen some injustices in the last few games we have played and that causes frustration. It feels we do not get any decisions – and that it is continual.’
The series of games with Dundee United have been packed with incident and controversy but can we really say Celtic have had the lion’s share of decisions go our way? The first tie at Tannadice came in the wake of December’s 2-1 win for United in the SPFL. In that game Stefan Scepovic had a goal disallowed for off side which TV footage clearly showed was on. Clearly Celtic didn’t get the refereeing decisions that day. In recent times an Official actually resigned after admitting lying about why he changed his decision on a Celtic penalty at Tannadice. ('Dougie, Dougie') The Cup tie at Tannadice then saw the complaining Paton guilty of a nasty stamp on Anthony Stokes instep in the first half. This was followed blatant dive from Aidan Connolly to win a penalty. We later saw Ciftci go unpunished for kicking Scott Brown in the head after a challenge in the midfield. Anyone who suggests Celtic got the decisions that day is dreaming.
On we went to Hampden for the League cup final and a match Celtic dominated as the stats show. The Hoops had 18 attempts on goal to United’s 3. The controversial incidents in that game were the sending off of Sean Dillon for an awful tackle on Izaguirre. United would claim Celtic players surrounded the Ref but footage shows three United players were doing most of the badgering of the official. The tackle was very poor and the red card justified. Scott Brown’s shoulder tackle on Ryan Dow was the other main talking point in the game. I’ve seen penalties given for such challenges and I’ve seen them refused. It was a close call but perhaps United don’t do their case any good by the ridiculous manner some of their players go to ground. On more than one occasion in that game Celtic players and fans were frustrated by Gow and others blowing over in the wind. That apart Celtic were by some way the better side and deserved to win the Cup.
This week we saw the Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park and Celtic destroyed United with a fluent and aggressive attacking display. The United goalkeeper could well have been sent off for his tackle on Griffiths early in the game. That apart, the only controversy surrounded the sending off of Anthony Stokes after a sleekit elbow to his mouth by the same Paul Paton who claims his teams don’t get the breaks against Celtic. Stokes was stupid to push him over but it was a cowardly and uncalled for action by the United player. Stokes later tweeted…
“Great performance. On another note I get a sly elbow in the face by someone that has got nothing about them and get sent off, typical!”
As Celtic hammered United on football we then saw a pretty distasteful lunge by Ryan McGowan on a Celtic player lead to him seeing red. The reaction of Celtic players who were closest to the tackle suggests they thought it was a bad one. So why this complaining by United about being treated unfairly? Even Jackie McNamara who saw some injustices against Celtic during his decade at Celtic Park was spouting this nonsense. The man who once punched Mark Hately during a heated Old Firm game was defending the diving of Connolly. It may be old fashioned mind games which seek to pressure the Referee in this weekend’s SPFL match but more likely it is a cover for United’s awful form of late. They haven’t won a match since beating mighty Stranraer in early February. The last two matches they have lost to Celtic by 2-0 and 4-0 were run of the mill wins in which the best side won. United haven’t won a league match at Celtic Park since 1992 and that tells us much about how poor they have been not how poor officials have been. Any cursory look at the three recent Celtic v Dundee United games would suggest United have not been harshly treated, rather they got what their football deserved; nothing. Indeed in their last 60 matches in all competitions with Celtic, Dundee United has won just 2. That reflects Celtic’s footballing superiority over those 15 years so do us all a favour United: man up and stop looking for someone else to blame. You’ve been well beaten by the better team and your feeble search for excuses is embarrassing.