YOU only get one chance to make a first impression.

It took Brendan Rodgers just over half an hour to determine the refereeing qualities of John Beaton.

It was August 7 2016, on a radiantly sunny afternoon in Edinburgh, when the new Celtic manager witnessed the whistler in action for the first time.

Arms folded and in deep contemplation on the Tynecastle touchline, the Northern Irishman, who had replaced Ronny Deila just over two months earlier, was watching his team perform on the occasion of his Premiership debut.

He smiled broadly in the eighth minute when James Forrest clipped in a neat shot to give the visitors the advantage. However, a groan replaced the grin in the 36th minute when Beaton awarded Hearts a mysterious penalty-kick.

CALM BEFORE THE COMEDY CAPERS…Brendan Rodgers arrives at Tynecastle for his Premiership debut on Sunday August 7 2016 – and his first sighting of John Beaton.

Adopting a puzzled expression, Rodgers viewed the incident in silence. He attempted to fathom the logic behind the match official’s decision to point unwaveringly to the spot when Jamie Walker dived theatrically after an encounter with fresh air.

To the utter astonishment of everyone in the ground – and the passing pigeons overhead – it appeared to be an atrocious act of simulation by the home team’s young forward. A blatant dive, if you prefer to be more forthright.

No matter. Beaton had made up his mind and Hearts gratefully accepted the gift. Walker dusted himself down after his dying swan re-enactment following a collision with nothing and slotted away the award to level matters.

A newspaper report from the day described the moment thus: “Hearts got their equaliser before half-time when Walker dived in the penalty area under a non-challenge from Kieran Tierney.

“The only man in Tynecastle who saw contact was referee John Beaton, who made a terrible call. Walker took advantage of the present and beat Craig Gordon with ease.”

Another version stated that “contact appeared minimal”. Actually, it would have been more accurate to say “contact appeared non-existent.”

That nonsensical freebie came within nine minutes of costing Celtic two points on Rodgers’ maiden voyage. Justice was done when Scott Sinclair, recruited from Aston Villa only hours beforehand, tucked a left-wing cross from Leigh Griffiths past Jack Hamilton for the winner.

AIR WE GO…Jamie Walker throws himself to the ground after Kieran Tierney’s non-challenge that saw Hearts gifted a penalty-kick from which he gratefully scored the leveller.

Beaton wasn’t done, though. In the last 12 minutes, during a booking frenzy, the match official cautioned three of the visiting team – Scott Brown, Moussa Dembele and Sinclair (for displaying way too much pleasure at his debut strike).

If the flurry of yellow cards was intended to knock the champions out of their stride with the finishing line in sight it didn’t work.

However, Walker’s deceitful action couldn’t possibly escape the notice of the SFA and retrospective action was taken against the Hearts player who picked up a two-game ban.

By way of a ludicrous explanation, Walker claimed he went down because he anticipated a challenge. That’s still one of the outstanding excuses in the bulging book of ‘How To Attempt to Justify Cheating in Football‘.

Hearts joined in the vaudeville scenario when they actually appealed the suspension. Please remember, dear friends, this was after the entire incident had been shown in slow motion and proved conclusively that Tierney had pulled out of a tackle in the box, but Walker still reckoned that was enough to send him spinning to con a gullible referee.

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL…Brendan Rodgers is in the frame as he acknowledges the Celtic supporters after the eventful victory at Tynecastle. 

That’s the same exploitable match official who teamed up with Don Robertson to put on a comedy performance in the capital last month that would warrant star billing at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

That’s the same John Beaton who will be in charge of Celtic’s derby confrontation at Ibrox on Sunday.

The duplicitous Walker was named and shamed by the SFA for his pathetic actions back on that August day in 2016.

Beaton, it would appear, escaped without any public censure, despite a glaring error of judgement that almost cost Celtic two points.

Maybe Scotland’s soccer rulers at the time were struggling for an apt description for the referee’s bungling exhibition.

I could suggest one, if I may?

How about incompetent?


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