Odsonne Eduard’s injury against St Johnstone yesterday came about when defender Joe Shaughnessy raised his boot to stop Odsonne shot from 2 yards out. The Celtic player’s shin caught Shaughnessy’s studs which were up to block the attempt at goal. Edouard was injured, unable to continue.
This is one of those incidents that looks innocuous; Shaughnessy’s intent was to stop the shot, not to injury an opponent. Referee, Willie Collum, took no action.
Let me take you back to the white heat of the title challenge in 2011. Celtic travelled to Hamilton on 12 January that year. Minutes after the break, James Forrest raised his boot to block a clearance from David Buchanan, Forrest’s studs catching Buchanan’s foot. It was the same scenario as the Edouard- Shaughnessy incident yesterday – there was no intent, but the Hamilton player took a sore one, although he was able to continue. The referee awarded Buchanan a foul and Forrest received a straight red card for dangerous play. It the same referee.
I’ll be honest, I was annoyed when James Forrest was sent off for that incident 8 years ago, so my reaction was inhibited when Shaughnessy did the same during yesterday’s game. But one of the decisions was wrong, clearly. If raising your studs to block an opponent is a foul and dangerous play, Celtic should have been awarded a penalty for this incident (not to mention Ryan Christie’s kick in the ribs immediately beforehand), and Shaughnessy should have been sent off.
I don’t go on about refereeing here. Standards improved after hitting an all-time low during the 2009-2011 seasons, when Celtic appeared to be punished on the field for making detailed complaints at that time. The Forrest red card in 2011 took place six weeks after referees went on strike, two months after the Head of Refereeing was sacked and three months after referee, Dougie McDonald, admitted to the SFA Head of Referees that he lied to Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, an admission which led to a re-done match report that was eventually leaked on CQN. There was chaos in the profession at that time, with conspiracies between referees and their assistants to adopt a fabricated version of events that proved impossible to maintain.
Changes were made and the game eventually improved. Since then, of course, there has been no chance of league titles being decided by the vagaries of refereeing – only the outcome of cup games could be determined by overlooking a defender punching a shot off the goal-line.
Extraordinary decisions from officials took place at other grounds this weekend, so this is not an isolated incident. After making progress, standards have regressed. I get the feeling those responsible for standards are out of their depth, unsure what to do to improve things. The worst thing they could do is retrench into a bunker in order to protect their flanks. To borrow a recently used phrase, it’s OK not to be OK. Admitting as much is the first step to recovery.
Take some action.