CELTIC legend Davie Hay admits he is as puzzled as anyone else with some of the VAR decisions since the new technology was introduced to Scottish football in October 2022.

The club’s former player and manager thought he had seen it all in a career that took in football on both sides of the border, European games at the highest level and, as a Scotland international, a World Cup among the elite in 1974.

However, Hay, now a sprightly 76, has conceded he has never witnessed anything like the incessant interruptions from the officials in front of the multi screens and some of the inexplicable outcomes of their interventions.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hay, speaking to his long-time friend and author Alex Gordon, who co-wrote the icon’s best-selling autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin‘, reveals his concerns for Brendan Rodgers and his team in the season’s countdown.

The club ambassador said: “I thought Celtic had turned the corner when they overcame Dundee 7-1 at Parkhead last month.

“I believed that result and performance would give them the momentum to see them over the finishing line at the so-called business end of the season.

“I was difficult not to be impressed by my old club against the Dens Park visitors. The tempo right from the kick-off was quite incredible, the movement was first class and everyone knew exactly what they should be contributing.

“There have been a few games where Celtic have dominated without scoring the goals their play merited.

“The alarm bells sounded as early as the third league game of the campaign when St Johnstone claimed a goalless draw in Glasgow. That was just a week after the League Cup exit at Kilmarnock.

SOMETHING STINKS…Brendan Rodgers is clearly unimpressed by the performance of the match officials at Tynecastle earlier this month.

“The Saints turned up at the home of the champions without a win and stuck at the foot of the Premiership. It was the type of game any team would welcome to come bouncing back immediately from a loss, especially one that ended your interest in one of the three domestic trophies.

“I recall Matt O’Riley might have scored four goals that afternoon. However, shots were being saved, blocked or flying off target. It was practically all one-way traffic, but there was a moment of danger near the end when Joe Hart was brought into action to make a superb save from Stevie May in a rare breakaway.

“How many times has that scenario been replayed this season?”

Hay continued: “Despite some inconsistent displays, I genuinely believed Celtic were ready to launch a sequence of results that would see them go all the way to win the title and throw in the Scottish Cup for good measure.

“When Celtic are firing on all cylinders, I doubt if there is any team in the country to touch them. I had hoped the side had been through the worst of it and were about to show why they have won 11 championships in the past 12 years.

“I should know you can never take anything for granted in this game. And certainly there was no way you could predict the VAR decisions in the next match against Hearts after the Dundee romp.

“My days of being fined by the SFA for questioning the quality of match officials are thankfully in the past. I was the manager who called for neutral referees for Old Firm games.

REFFIN’ HELL…Celtic boss Davie Hay lets rip at match official Bob Valentine.

“We had been on the receiving end of some incomprehensible decisions in these matches and I thought I had to make my feelings known. I can’t remember if I was punished by the game’s rulers for speaking my mind. I made so many visits to their old HQ at Park Gardens that I may have been fined or censured.

“Remarkably, I never had to attend these disciplinary meetings as a player because I was never sent off. Can you imagine that? Someone nicknamed The Quiet Assassin and I was never dismissed even once?

“It was a different story as a manager when I refused to be gagged. The SFA didn’t like it when you attempted to utilise freedom of speach and that would lead to the inevitable punishment in the pocket.

“So, I feel sorry for Brendan Rodgers. I doubt, though, if the manager requires any sympathy from me, but I know what he is going though. Was he right to call out VAR official John Beaton and referee Don Robertson after their performances at Tynecastle? Of course he was.

“Incompetent? I can think of stronger expressions, but their joint display in Edinburgh would have left any neutral utterly flummoxed.

VERBAL VOLLEY…Davie Syme is on the receiving end of Davie Hay’s comments after a dreadful display in the 1986 League Cup Final where he sent off Mo Johnston and awarded Rangers a nighly-dubious penalty-kick winner.

“The Yang Hyun-jun red card was a lamentable decision. He copped a two-game ban for a high boot. There was no aggression in his movement and if you look again at the incident you’ll see it is the Hearts lad, Alex Cochrane, who is instigating contact by thrusting hs head forward.

“Rightly, Celtic appealed. Predictably, the SFA kicked it out. Some things never change.”

Hay added: “What can you say about the absurd spot-kick decision? That was simply mindboggling. Poor old Tomoki Iwata hadn’t a clue the ball had brushed his arm during the duel.

“No Hearts player screamed for a penalty-kick and there were seven getting a close-up view of the incident. The match official had a good view, too, and there was not a moment’s thought about pointing to the spot.

“Play continued before Beaton instructed his colleague to review the incident on his touchline monitor. Unbelievably, he had a quick glance, returned to the field, made his nonsensical award and Hearts gratefully accepted the unexpected gift to score the first of their two goals against 10 men.

“Diabolical decisions like that ruin football. I thought VAR was there to correct “a clear and obvious error”. There was no such thing in that instance.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT…Liam Scales and Tomoki Iwata look bewildered as striker Lawrence Shankland celebrates during Hearts’ VAR-assisted victory over Celtic at Tynecastle.

“Now Crawford Allan has reportedly quit his role a referee chief by ‘mutual consent’.

“Naturally, I am not privy to what goes on in the sixth floor at Hampden, but I can’t believe the resignation of Allan and the ongoing VAR shambles are unconnected.

“Celtic are a point ahead with eight games to play in the league, but that could have been a four-point advantage if the Tynecastle match hadn’t been refereed off the pitch.

“We can only hope my old club are not beset by even more controversy concerning match officials between now and the end of the season.

“I seem to recall making that exact same wish back in the eighties.”

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another big EXCLUSIVE from Davie Hay – only in your champion CQN.

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