This season is one we are likely to try to forget as soon as possible, and yet had we not made such an arse of it, on and off the field, it could have been so different.
Each will have his own opinion on when it started to go wrong, and the day Neil Lennon was appointed manager will probably be the agreed point of no return, but there’s something else we neglected to deal with that has probably had a far greater effect behind the scenes than anything else.
And we’ve seen a couple of examples of it in the last couple of games featuring the swashbuckling newcomers at Ibrox, and their associates in officialdom.
We’ve long since accepted that the refereeing community is either incompetent or corrupt. In the past I’ve tended to favour the bloody useless angle, and suggesting it could be reformed for the good of all.
The reality seems to be, however, that the status quo will continue, as it suits everyone, everyone but Celtic that is, and the other clubs as well, but if they don’t like it, they lose the blue pound… and they need that more than we do, even if our board doesn;t seem to think so.
Back at the start of the season, with ten in a row still a possibility, and the threat of extinction hanging over Ibrox, and all the fuss that would create, referee Kevin Clancy declared;
“I can absolutely guarantee you that the referees officiating in the Premiership know exactly what’s at stake this season.
Of course, he wasn’t asked to elaborate, or to explain who had told them exactly what’s at stake this season.
What was at stake ?
Ten in a row is the obvious answer, but no one considered out loud what ten in a row would mean for “rangers “, which would almost certainly be administration and liquidation.
With a fanbase already having committed millions, questions would surely be asked how they ended up millions in debt again, and a third entity would have been very difficult to get off the ground.
With that in mind, did Celtic’s board decide not to go for a high profile manager , instead of Neil Lennon, as it would have drawn attention to Scottish football, and that UEFA investigation-or, indeed police investigation-that everyone fears ?
Paranoid ? History has proven we weren’t paranoid enough.
Expanding on that idea of complicity, why didn’t Celtic protest when players were subject to assaults on the park without punishment from referees, or even the most basic of protection ?
The most significant revelation, to my mind, which led to a perception of bias in the refereeing community was when John Beaton was pictured after a Celtic “rangers ” game in a bar which was claimed to be his local and a haunt of an ibrox supporters club.
That should have resulted in Celtic protesting, that should have seen Beaton removed if not from the referee list, but certainly all games involving his favourite club.
Instead, we got a media frenzy about how he had received death threats and so on, fuelled entirely by a press release by his old school pal Andy Newport at the Press Association, which we covered in the diary at the time.
Beaton was the victim, despite ignoring several breaches of the rules by “rangers ” players, and cunningly breaking up several Celtic plays.
That was back then, and this last week or so has seen Alfredo Morelos receive a retrospective ban for an offence the referee missed, when he went on to score a winning goal, and last night Cedric Roofe thought he was being sent off for a brutal challenge but received a yellow.
Two games, two narrow wins, bith of which should have seen them playing with ten men,
This season, their top scorer is their top scorer due to penalties and free kicks, and yet they have not had a penalty awarded against them, even though offences have been committed.
Now, all of this might point to sour grapes, to the fact that Celtic have been so bad that its our only excuse to blame referees, but facts are facts, and its how they are interpreted that matters.
Celtic should have called this out from the beginning, when the side were winning everything in sight. Lawwell was clearly reluctant to bring any sort of attention to what was going on, and he must have had his reasons for that.
Not particularly good reasons, as we now have a situation where one team feels it is above the law, and bearing in kind they are still allowed to trade under the same name, location and brand as an entity that collapsed owing millions, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
By allowing their crimes of the early part of the century to go unpunished, or even recognised, Celtic have prepared the way for their own collapse.
Knowing that they are up against a community of referees who will not protect them, and will always favour an opponent makes it difficult to do their job, and of course, when they don’t get results, they get pressure from the support.
Maybe the pandemic has added to the need for another club, that club, to win the league and access Champions League money simply because without it they will fold.
Our own media, certainly the sports section, are delirious, not necessarily over the prospect of a new champion, but of the possibility that “rangers ” now have a chance to stay in business, and prying eyes will stay away from the game, which if they did look would cast a terrible light in their own ability to do their jobs.
However, there is one thing that might blow the whole thing open, as serious journalists outwith the laptop loyal ponder the pay out of over £20m to two guys claiming malicious prosecution when the original club was sold.
There can be no justification for such a payout, unless it has to be divvied up among others…..
As we said at the time when David Murrays empire crumbled, there was much more than a story about a football club going under to be told, if anyone had the balls to look for it.
The ten years or so they spent in the “wilderness ” will seem like a low price to pay compared with what they should have faced.
And they want us to pay for this shite ?
Our own board have been negligent in more ways than one, and losing our grip on the championship trophy is down to much, much more than simply poor team management.
If we’d really wanted to win this league, we’d have at least tried to do so.