I’ll take each of the major incidents (as I remember it) in turn. Firstly we can look at what happened on the field of play, then we can forecast Rangers and the media have/will media’s spin the incident and finally we can look a how the fallout and then we can ask where the blame should be assigned, regardless of what the press would have you believe.
Incident #1. Whittaker’s first booking.
What happened: Whittaker is booked for fouling Ki as he easily steps past the Rangers full-back. Whittaker turns and throws his shoulder and arm across Ki’s chest, throwing out his hips to deliberately impede and foul the Korean. Referee books Whittaker for Unsporting Behaviour.
How Rangers spun it: Watty Smith (being interviewed) – “I felt Steven Whittaker’s first yellow card was a soft one,” said Smith.
Truth: Whittaker deserved the yellow card for what amounted to obstruction. Should he not be booked because he plays for Rangers?
Incident #2. Whittaker’s second booking, resulting in ordering off. Madjid Bougherra grabs hold of the referees arm and forces it downwards, trying to stop the referee from sending Whittaker off.
What happened: Emilio Izzaguirre collects the ball after a sloppy header from Whittaker who then proceeds to sprint and launch himself off the ground, swiping his legs. He misses the ball and catches Izzaguirre’s right foot. Referee awards a second yellow card. Whittaker sent off. Izzaguirre requires the attention of the physio Tim Williamson.
How Rangers spun it: Watty Smith – “I wouldn’t argue with the second one, but he is unfortunate to have got the first one.” The manhandling of the referee is ignored.
Truth: Sending off for a dangerous lunge at another player is the proper decision. Watty accepts this but makes an underhand comment that Whittaker would have remained on the park if not for a referee who had “Over-reacted”. Bougherra should have been at least booked at this point for touching the referee.
Incident #3. El Hadj Diouf shoulder barges Tim Williamson as he passes by en route to Izzaguirre. He then proceeds to the Celtic technical area and berates the Celtic management team. Neil Lennon confronts Diouf, which leads to Walter Smith having to send Kenny McDowell to stop Diouf from escalating the tension and physically grabs Alistair McCoist to stop him getting involved.
How Rangers Spun it: The shoulder barge is completely ignored by both the press and the Rangers management. Rangers blame Neil Lennon for acting aggressively towards Diouf.
Truth: Firstly, what the hell was Diouf playing at by physically barging a member of Celtic’s technical staff? Then he proceeds to the Celtic technical area where he launches into a verbal assault against Neil Lennon who, naturally, defends himself and his physio. Alistair McCoist deems it necessary to take it upon himself to rush headlong into battle but is thwarted by Watty’s quick thinking. Why is McCoist trying to get involved? Why is there hatred and anger all over his face? Why is Diouf not punished by more than a booking for almost inciting a riot? Will the police act on it as a matter of breach of the peace?
Incident #4. Scott Brown booked following a challenge from Davie Weir. Scott Brown moves forward from midfield towards the Rangers box. Davie Weir comes in with almost a knee-high challenge and rakes his studs down Brown’s shin guards. Weir falls over as he does so then pretends to be hurt. Brown booked.
How Rangers spun it: Ignored by Rangers, however the press have highlighted that “Scott Brown gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on David Weir.”
Truth: If anyone should have been booked, it was Davie Weir who could have seriously injured Scott Brown.
Incident #5. Madjid Bougherra is booked for a foul on Gary Hooper.
How Rangers spun it: Bougherra claims Hooper backed into him. The press report “Foul by Madjid Bougherra on Gary Hooper, free kick awarded.” Watty says “Madjid Bougherra’s first one was a yellow card…”
Truth: Bougherra deliberately stamps on, and runs his studs down, Gary Hooper’s Achilles tendon. This could have been a serious injury for Hooper. Bougherra should have received a red card for dangerous play.
Incident #6. Madjid Bougherra slides into Kris Commons knocking him into the air. He is shown a second Yellow and sent from the field of play. Bougherra then loses the plot and for the second time grabs the referee’s arm forcing it downwards in an attempt to stop the yellow card being shown.
How Rangers spun it: Watty says, “the second one was clearly not. He slid in and clearly got the ball. The Celtic player’s momentum made it look worse than it was.” The manhandling is ignored by media reps and Rangers management alike.
Truth: Davie Provan remarked “Bougherra’s leaving his calling card on Commons there. Sure, he gets the ball, but after he’s clearly taken the man.” Once again Bougherra has deliberately tried to hurt a Celtic player. Even worse, he is not punished for manhandling the referee for the second time in the match.
Incident #7. After the final whistle blows, El Hadj Diouf berates the referee, applauding sarcastically. After attempting to wave him away several times, the referee has no choice but to show Diouf a second yellow card and send him from the field of play. Diouf, incensed (again) refuses to go, has to be hauled away by Kenny McDowell (again). He wheels away, rips his shirt off, allegedly shoves it in the face of the linesman (I did not see this incident but have heard it reported from several sources) and runs over to the Rangers fans, gesturing by punching his fist in the air.
How rangers spun it: it is reported thusly: “(Smith) made no defence of Diouf’s red card, earned when he berated Murray after the final whistle, but did claim there was an element of provocation involved. “He is an easy target and lets himself get wound up,” said Smith. “There was a lot of frustration at the end of the game. He gets a bit het-up, that’s the way he is.”
Truth: Diouf was sent off for repeatedly refusing to heed the referees warnings and kept on berating him. He was rightfully shown the second yellow, yet refused to leave the field of play. He had to be physically escorted from the field by a Rangers coach. He is guilty of an act of extreme provocation and, as we have seen in the past when it comes to celtic players, can and should be charged with affray or breach of the peace, never mind being punished by the games governing body.
Incident #8. Neil Lennon and Alistair McCoist come together to shake hands. Lennon leans over to exchange words with McCoist. McCoist appears to say something provocative and inflammatory to Lennon who rightfully takes offence. Lennon has to be physically restrained by his coaches whilst McCoist wanders off with a smug grin on his face.
How Rangers spun it: Rangers manager Walter Smith revealed McCoist had been unhappy with what he regarded as confrontational behaviour from Lennon towards Diouf during the match. The controversial Senegalese striker had picked up his first booking in the first-half after squaring up to Lennon on the touchline. The press run stories of how Rangers are unhappy with Lennon for starting all the trouble in the first place. In his post match interview Watty says: “I think the referee got carried away by the crowd’s reaction on both occasions. It was a competitive cup tie but there were challenges I didn’t think were worth yellow cards. As I say, I couldn’t complain about Bougherra’s first caution or Whittaker’s second, but I felt they were both unlucky to be sent off. I’m not sure we committed that many more fouls than Celtic. There was nothing that left anyone seriously injured but there were yellow cards handed out throughout the game. It makes the reflection of the game worse than it actually was.” Yet Watty contrarily claims: “These things happen,” said Smith. “I’m always reasonably quick up the tunnel, so I didn’t see what happened. But the problem there was quite simple. Alistair was quite annoyed that Neil was being aggressive towards one of the Rangers players. That annoyed him more than anything else.”
Truth: McCoist clearly tries to win up Lennon. What he said is not really important, but McCoist’s actions have shown that he is clearly the instigator of more trouble. The match did not need any more fuel poured on it’s already fiery atmosphere. He is as guilty as Diouf. For Watty to try to defend that is inexcusable. With Lennon’s appeal hearing against his unprecedented six game touchline ban, this is clearly a despicable, purposeful, Machiavellian act perpetrated by McCoist to get Lennon in even more bother. If Watty didn’t see anything how can he comment on either McCoist and Diouf’s acts of provocation?
We are constantly reminded that Celtic are as bad as Rangers when it comes to Old F*rm games. We are told that Celtic Fans are as bad as the Hun Hordes when it comes to sectarianism and racist violence, yet as was clearly displayed today, there is only ONE side of the coin that is guilty here.
And it’s not Celtic.
During the build up to this match a very senior Policeman made the outrageous claim that Old F*rm games should be banned as they cause too much trouble. Amazingly Watty of Waistcoatagreed with him as reported by the media: The teams will meet for the sixth time this season in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden on 20 March and have one more SPL fixture to play at Ibrox. Smith, who joked that he agreed with a call from senior police officer Les Gray earlier this week to ban Old Firm games, admitted that the number of times the teams face each other increases the tension.
“Playing each other seven times a season doesn’t help, but there has to be a balance there from everyone in terms of what is a level of competitiveness and what isn’t. It certainly gives you plenty to write about, so I don’t think you should complain too greatly. I have been involved for a long time in these games now. How many Rangers-Celtic matches have been like this? It is worse if you don’t compete. We didn’t compete at all in the last game here and got battered.
The Fallout: Over the next couple of days we will no doubt be bombarded with tales of how Neil Lennon provoked El Hadj Diouf. We will be told how both teams were as bad as each other. We will NOT hear about Rangers and coaches players antics, their attempts to disrupt Celtic at all costs. They have never stooped so low as they did today. This Rangers team is a team totally bereft of any quality other than out and out thuggery. They should be punished for the many acts of indiscipline and violence on the field, but they won’t be. They should be lambasted for their ultra-defensive formations and complete lack of attacking spirit, but they won’t be. Smith should be pilloried by the Rangers fans and the media for his team being humiliated for the third time in a row against Celtic, but he won’t be. Alistair McCoist should be punished for his inflammatory actions in the technical area, but he won’t be.
What will happen is that jointly, Rangers and the media will round on Neil Lennon and Celtic. Any acts of violence amongst the Rangers support will be put down to Old F*rm fans. The many Rangers bookings have already been attributed as “Old F*rm Bookings”.
Don’t let them fool you. If too many people believe we are to blame then Consensus Reality will rule and we will appear to be at blame for everything that happened today.
Believe. Resist. Stand Up for our team, our support, our daily values.
What WE believe is our reality.