Tuesday, May 17, 2011

SPL: Controversy As Walter Smith Says Nothing New

A broadside to mark his departure.

As I wrote earlier it would be wrong to paint Walter Smith as having lived out his final days as Rangers manager above the fray of Scottish football's navel gazing bickering.

Today's papers would seem to confirm that opinion. The Telegraph reports Smith as saying:

“The season got off to a bad start, in that respect, when Celtic put up a challenge to referees and to everybody else. That got the season off to a bad start and it went downhill after that.

“From my own point of view, I hope everybody would realise that people who work in Scottish football - referees included - are always under terrific scrutiny. It was an unfair circumstance they were placed in this season and I just hope that now everybody gets on with it.

“And I hope Celtic realise that, if their team is good enough, they will win. If they're not good enough, they'll not win - and they can't look at anybody else, whether it's referees or any other influence.

“I don't say that in a smug way. I just felt that it set the tone for what it has been a poor season for our country, in terms of publicity overall.”

And so our futile game of "he said, he said" continues.

Celtic to blame for all the troubles of this rancourous season? No.

Was this blog alone in raising some concerns about the way Celtic conducted themselves earlier in their season? No.

But football is a game of opinions. We've seen the horrible consequences when people don't accept the rights of others to express themselves.

What is of more interest is the media process. A process that will no doubt stir no little comment across Scottish football's internet sphere of influence in the hours and days to come.

But here's the thing. This is a regurgitated story. New quotes do not maketh a new story.

Sadly over hype will mean we're all covered in the cold vomit of this poisonous season for a few days longer. Goodo.

Here's Walter in October:

"I felt there was an unfair pressure on Willie Collum. I thought he handled the game extremely well today. We will always have arguments about certain decisions.

"But that is two Old Firm derbies out of three where the match referee has been put under unfair pressure before the start of the game.

"During all the time I have been involved in Rangers v Celtic matches, in the majority of these games, it has been the better side on the day that has won.

"There is too much focus being placed upon referees. And there’s no doubt Willie Collum was placed under an unfair burden today.

"There comes a time when we must stop blaming officials. We have to have a look at what happened (in the game).’

"We all have our ideas about decisions that did or didn’t go against us. We have to look deeper than that for the reasons games are won and lost." (Daily Mail)

Wattie again. This time in February.

"Everyone has to remember that Celtic have won three of the last five SPL championships. So, if people are conspiring against them, I wouldn't like to see what they'll do once they (referees) stop.

"I think Celtic have tried to use that to their own advantage - I don't believe there's any doubt about that - but Gordon Strachan's comments have led everyone to the actual truth.

"It would have been very hard for Gordon to agree with it, given he led them to three championships." (Daily Mail)

And March.

"It would have been nice if whoever complained, or wanted to complain, had come out of the closet to do it, rather than in an anonymous manner."

"I thought the referee handled the game very well today. It was always going to be awkward for him. It was a totally unfair circumstance he was placed in this week and I thought he coped with it really well." (Scotsman)

Heaven help us. He was at it again in April.

"Celtic started this season with a campaign about never getting decisions.

"Well, they got one today. I don't think anybody can say that that was a penalty out there." (BBC)

And what's this from August 2008:

"I don't feel a degree of sympathy. But I think a lot of stuff that's been going on in the early part of the season has been exaggerated. Referees and linesmen make mistakes the same way as players and managers make mistakes.

"We are certainly getting them highlighted in a manner that is far greater than anything I can remember, but if referees do make an error it is because it is an error, not because they support clubs or have a bias towards this, that or the next thing. If we stop accepting that factor then we start to have real problems." (Telegraph)

If Walter Smith blew the lid off his silence yesterday then we must conclude that he's shite at keeping secrets.

Still. Shame to let that spoil another round of good old vitriol and mud slinging.