24 Hours In Scottish Football: A Red Face And A Yellow Card
The United States have had iconic speeches throughout history.
They had JFK and his vision for putting man on the moon. Martin Luther King and his ‘I have a dream’ speech almost a year later in 1963. And then there was President Regan demanding his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall.
In terms of Scottish football, we don’t really have these seismic moments of change ushered through the power of speech. I mean we did have Charles Green from his hospital bed, who could forget that?
But yesterday, it felt like we had one of those iconic moments.
Forever, it will be known and remembered, as the time Sturgeon gave Scottish football the yellow card.
And who could argue with her?
Players breaking the rules
Just days after the eight Aberdeen players had the country’s First Minister in her own words ‘furious’, here she was again talking about the national sport at her Coronavirus Pandemic daily briefing.
Celtic left back Boli Bolingoli had a secret trip to Spain last week, a country classed as high risk, and then failed to quarantine upon his return.
Around midday, Nicola Sturgeon, answering questions from journalists, stated ‘I think as a minimum you should not be expecting to see Aberdeen or Celtic play over the course of the coming week’. This was the first reference from the head of the Scottish Government regarding repercussions of the players actions.
Lennon facing the press
It’s not often that I feel sorry for someone. I felt sorry for Partick Thistle and the way they were relegated. I felt sorry for the big guy in The Green Mile, John Coffey (like the drink, just not spelled the same!). Yesterday I felt sorry for Neil Francis Lennon.
Less than an hour after the FM’s update, the Celtic gaffer strutted out to face the press like a hedgehog wandering into a balloon shop.
Lennon was livid. Lennon was appalled. Lennon was above all, embarrassed.
What was Bolingoli’s rationale for his jolly to Spain? ‘He didn’t have one’, the Northern Irishman replied.
Lennon explained that the player had been told in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t to travel, ‘He decided to keep it to himself, didn’t tell anybody, train all week and put everybody at risk in this bubble we have created here’.
He acknowledged that the player had also put the Kilmarnock players at risk as he had featured for the final ten minutes in Sunday’s 1-1 draw and that the Ayrshire club had been offered an apology for the situation.
At this point in the day, it hadn’t officially been confirmed that Celtic’s next two fixtures were to be postponed. That would follow and hour or so after Lennon had finished his press meeting.
In this season of all season, one of the most important in Scottish football’s long history, with the ten on the line, this could be a moment that we look back on. This could be that seismic moment of change.
Rangers have a fixture tonight and another on Sunday against St Johnstone and Livingston respectively. Both games they will expect to win.
By tea time on Sunday evening Rangers could be eight points ahead of Celtic. Granted Celtic will have two games in hand but still, these are the butterfly effects on this one man’s actions.
It now means that Celtic’s next game will be in the one-off Champions League fixture against KR Reykjavik next Tuesday night at Parkhead. It also means that they will go into this fixture with only two competitive matches under their belt instead of four.
Will they be sharp enough? Those two missing matches surely would have helped settle the team and improve the fitness after such a long lay-off during the lockdown.
Questions to answer
And when will these two postponed games even get played? Neil Doncaster said last week the SPFL had one spare fixture window left of the season.
And it seems yesterday, forgotten in the frenzy of fury across twitter, as Celtic fans called for Bolingoli’s sacking and Rangers fans used it as a chance to point score, Kilmarnock were largely forgotten in all of this. What happens to their players and staff? Surely, by the government guidelines, as Bolingoli failed to self-isolate on return to the country, anyone he has come in to contact with must also quarantine?
I think it is safe to say that in the coming days Boli Bolingoli will have his Celtic contract terminated. As much as Lennon didn’t actually confirm this, when posed the question of him being welcomed back by the rest of the Celtic squad his reply was ‘put it this way, it would be very very difficult’.
It truly was a momentous day of drama in Scottish football. It never fails to amaze us punters does it? It’s a prime reason why we love the game up here. The twists and turns.
Boli Bolingoli won’t be given another chance. But it seems, on this occasion Scottish football will. But it’s a last chance. And next time, it’ll be a straight red card for the game.