cleaning up, Tynecastle
Last night's SPL fixture between Heart of Midlothian and Celtic should have been a thrilling game; perhaps it even was; but sadly, no-one is talking about the football.
They should be; all the ingredients for an end of season thriller were in place; it was a must win for Celtic, to take the title race to the wire, and a matter of more than just pride for Hearts; they may have finally secured third spot, and a place in Europe next season, but had not won any of their last six fixtures. The Edinburgh side badly wanted to shrug off accusations of limping to the finish line; and they always relish the chance to prove themselves a serious threat to the Old Firm.
The build-up had been promising; Celtic had obligingly had a wobble just a few days earlier, losing 3-2 to Inverness Caley Thistle, throwing the title race open again; and after yet more negative press about Heart's owner Vladimir Romanov interfering in the manager's team selection, manager Jim Jefferies had publicly announced that he had been given free reign to pick his own team for this, their final home fixture of the season; it mattered. The elusive Lithuanian owner was even scheduled to put in one of his rare appearances in the Director's box (he didn't; a wise choice). Whatever Celtic manager Neil Lennon had said to stoke his players up, it worked; they needed goals, and goals they duly delivered - three of them, two from Gary Hooper, either side of a Chris Commons strike.
However, since last night, this game has indeed featured prominently on both front and back pages all over world, but nobody was discussing the goals, or the quality of the football on show, and Scottish football once again finds itself a global talking point for all the wrong reasons; after Hearts' David Ouba was needlessly sent off in the 32nd minute, the atmosphere, already edgy, took a turn for the worse, variously described by the BBC commentators as 'evil' and 'poisonous'. Things came to a head after Commons' goal, the second for Celtic, when a spectator from the Hearts section raced to the away dugout and attacked Neil Lennon; the rest is well documented elsewhere. Lennon retaliated, and once again finds himself at the centre of a toxic media brouhaha about sectarianism and victimisation, claim and counter-claim, the debate now widened from the West Coast of Scotland, allegations bouncing back and forward between fans as to who was singing the most offensive songs - sectarian, pro-IRA, all deeply disturbing stuff, clearly with no place in a modern society.
The result, a clear win for Celtic, puts them back within a point of the title, and sets up what should be a thrilling climax to the Scottish season, a "helicopter Sunday" where the League Cup will hover between the two old firm games, Celtic at home to Motherwell, and Rangers away at Kilmarnock. However, in a "season of shame", as the press has dubbed it, with referee strikes, bullets, air-rifles and parcel bombs, along with countless managerial punch-ups, many of those who love Scottish football simply just want the season to end quietly, and as quickly as possible. The Scottish Football Association must take a good, long, hard look at itself over the summer and surely, surely, do something decisive for once to halt the dangerous slide down the abyss for our much loved national game.
- Research BlackBerry 8520