Man Up,Match Up!
Sunday’s fiasco still rankles with me,I’m afraid. There are a number of reasons why I would rather not be playing matches against that mob,not least that events of around a decade should have seen them consigned to the dustbin of history. Another good reason that should be is that such matches are rarely a good advertisement for our game.
How can football flourish when one team is allowed to kick the other off the pitch,in a blatant display of anti-football ably abetted by an official whose integrity has long been questionable at best? How can one particular opponent commit at least four separate yellow card offences with barely a word said,much less a card being flourished? Did Madden perhaps have a word in his ear during play as he ran past him? If so,I can only assume it was one of encouragement.
How can their winner be allowed to stand,given the clear offside involved? Well,that raises a bigger issue.
Chris Sutton and others steamrollered Madden’s performance on the day,calling it incompetent,or the worst seen by him from a Scottish referee,which he referred to as “and that’s saying something!” I disagree. It was an excellent performance from Madden,a masterclass and a genuine five star display. He set out with a mission in mind,and he accomplished that mission in full. Very much a good day at the office.
These pages have been filled since by question marks over our manager’s pragmatism-a subject I raised a few weeks ago-or the poor form of some players,our small pool of available replacements etc. I totally understand the points being raised in these and other respects. But let’s deal with those replacements,and maybe the first team picks too.
Abada and especially Jota have been very poor since the turn of the year. The obvious replacement on the right is James Forrest,who simply hasn’t got his mojo back since succumbing to injury eighteen months ago. (Btw,continuing to play a footballer who has a stress fracture of the foot should be a shooting offence). The replacement on the left is Maeda/Kyogo with the other being played central. But in the absence of G-Mak,we have no aerial presence,and that lack of height severely compromises our options and our potency up front.
In midfield,we really have to face up to the fact that CalMac is NOT a central midfielder,not a replacement for Broonie at his peak. Broonie wasn’t a central midfielder either when he joined us,he became one. CalMac won’t. He is much better in his proper role as a left half,and he proves that every bloody time he plays there. In fact,he proves it more every time he is selected as the defensive mid. So who do we play there instead? Well,one option is Bitton,but don’t start me. Another is Reo,but this guy is crying out for a rest,and playing him in the engine room against the intensity of the huns would be a disaster.
Not one player on our bench on Sunday was able to fill the most glaring holes in our line up. There was no attacking height there,no wide flair players,only adapted strikers. No defensive midfield steel. Not a single player on the bench,bar Ralston and Welsh,that I would trust to stand toe to toe in a battle. That may be a bit harsh,but it is nevertheless true. And when you have a referee who is going to permit that battle to commence,we had nobody in the trenches.
Sure,we had cover at the back. Welsh can cover centre half-I still say that he was Player of the Year last season,and with good reason-or right back. Juranovic can switch flanks if Taylor,who has really been in the wars this season,has to come off. It is difficult to cover adequately for both full backs needing to be replaced,but it wasn’t those replacements who cost us the game.
In truth,and this is not simply making excuses,it was Madden who cost us that game. Which brings me back to the original point of this article. Apart from the offside goal,there is not one decision either made or ignored on Sunday which would have been subject to VAR scrutiny. Madden is known for “game management” and Sunday was exactly that. Soft yellow cards flourished at Celtic players,soft free kicks given to halt us in our tracks,assaults ignored when it suited him? None of these is subject to VAR review. Not only did Madden show how it can be done,he provided a training video for all his colleagues on how to get round VAR when it is eventually introduced.
Do all your dirty work in midfield so that the ball cannot get to those areas where VAR comes into play. I’m afraid that anyone who thinks that VAR will be the answer,that it will make our game more honest,should watch a rerun of Sunday. Or you can just wait till next season when I reckon we will be watching a rerun on a regular basis.
Above article by BMCUWP