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The Ref: He’s behind you!

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In a brand new feature for Scotzine and one that we will be looking to continue for the foreseeable future, we have secured the services of a referee with around ten years experiences officiating in the Scottish game. The Ref as he will be called will look at some of the major calls in the game involving Scottish clubs be it at international, European or domestic level.

The first major call he looks at is Scott Brown’s sending off after being adjudged to have kicked out at Neymar after bringing up down in Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League qualifier between Celtic and Barcelona.

It’s only October and already ‘panto season’ seems upon us. Booing and hissing filled the air of Celtic Park last night for the so-called villain Neymar, yet the capacity crowd failed in their duty to call out ‘He’s behind you’ when Scott Brown laid a 59th minute boot into the back of the Brazilian.

‘The football fan is fickle’ is a phrase all too often coined in my opinion, yet last night the ‘bhoys in green’ seemed to prove that beyond all reasonable doubt. On the 12th February, Celtic lost 2 – 0 to the mighty Italian giants Juventus at Celtic Park, a defeat, blamed very much on the Spanish whistler Mallenco. He was subjected to weeks of questioning by the Celtic manager Neil Lennon, the Scottish media and the Celtic faithful. Mallenco’s refusal to penalise several penalty area infringements and even had the powers-that-be at Celtic Park seeking clarification from the organisers of Europe’s elite competition. The only clarification required that night was the decision to start with Ambrose.

Last night it was the turn of the 44-year-old French referee Stephane Lannoy to lead the teams out at Paradise, yet the man from Sailly-sur-la-Lys would have thought he was public enemy number one each time he correctly penalised both teams for infringements within the penalty area. I counted nine separate free kicks being awarded in the match, for holding offences, three against Celtic and six against Barcelona. Each time he whistled against the home side the baying crowd were calling for his blood, if only they could be taken back to that cold night back in February.

The biggest talking point of the match came in the 59th minute when the true panto villain Scott Brown decided to lay a boot into the back of Neymar. As the former Manchester United captain and Celtic player Roy Keane said when discussing Nani’s red card against Real Madrid: ‘If you give the referee a chance to send you off he will take it’ – that’s exactly the opportunity presented by Brown and Lannoy obliged.

Neil Lennon described the kick as minimal and the decision to send off Brown as abysmal. I wonder if the ‘minimal’ contact made by Inverness Caley Thistle’s Juanjo at Pittodrie in 2004, on the then-Celtic midfielder was enough to knock the green tinted glasses well and truly over his eyes, it was certainly enough to floor Lennon clutching his face.

The laws of the game are very clear when it comes to violent conduct – ‘a player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball’.

Was Brown’s kick excessive? Possibly not. Was it a clear sign of brutality? For me and for the referee it clearly was. Imagine this scenario – You are running for a bus alongside another member of the public when you fall over. Joe Public doesn’t pick you up nor see if you are okay but decides to have a fly kick at you on the way past – would you feel aggrieved? Of course you would!

Lannoy walked of the pitch at Celtic Park on Tuesday night with his head held high and can look forward to his next Champion’s League appointment; whilst the so-called victim, of a poor refereeing decision and Neymar’s play-acting, Scott Brown can wait for his appeal claim to be dismissed.

I only wish the Celtic manager would remove his tinted glasses once in a while and see the decision for what it was. I have yet to see an angle of the kick by the Celtic captain that can be offered to UEFA in order to appeal an impending two match ban.

Maybe Scott Brown should pop along to the University of Strathclyde where the Glasgow Referees Association are holding their new entrants course – he might learn a thing or two!

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