Celtic and Covid have become almost as synonymous as Paolo Di Canio and white boots.
In 19-20, Celtic became 9IAR Champions after developing an insurmountable league lead. Then, the season was cut short. Throughout 20-21, the lack of supporters was blamed for the team’s declining performances. Multiple members of the squad have tested positive over the season, largely due to International duty. Even the Celtic View, the first club-led periodical on these islands, had to cease operation temporarily due to the pandemic.
That’s leaving aside the controversies. First, it was Boli Bolingoli’s trip to Spain [Herald]. The left-back went on an unapproved jaunt and ended up paying the price, in a literal sense. Celtic fined him the maximum amount they could, after he had failed to update the club’s medical staff on his whereabouts. He played briefly against Kilmarnock, endangering both sets of teams. It was stupid, and the club rightly hammered him for it. Bolingoli is unlikely to play for Celtic ever again.
Then, Dubai: having obviously not learned from the Bolingoli fall-out, the club went ahead with a mid-season foreign training camp. No other big club in Europe was doing this at the time. Cue controversy, a bungled apology and Neil Lennon’s off-script attack at the press. Jullien caught Covid, and 13 players and staff were forced to self-isolate.
Lennon’s comments aside, the club took its medicine, so to speak. After Bolingoli, the club came down hard. Maybe too hard. After Dubai, the club’s on-pitch performances were stunted. Our CEO apologised.
Our rivals south of the Clyde, however, seem to think they’re above admitting fault when there are egregious, arrogant examples of rule-breaking.
At least Celtic have admitted fault and taken action
When five of the Rangers playing staff were caught at a party, there was immediate and widespread condemnation. Sure, young people make mistakes, but the rules around social distancing, masks and not congregating are incredibly simple. When players, such as our own Boli Bolingoli flout these rules, it only adds to the disconnect between supporters and the players they admire.
It’s sheer arrogance, really. But rather than knuckle down and accept their punishment, Rangers are instead suggesting that you can’t suspend players, because it’ll stunt their development.
Gerrard said yesterday [BBC]:
“Nathan is growing and growing. It’s a shame that he’s going to miss games moving forward.
“[The appeal] is something we’re still discussing at the moment. We’re in talks with the SFA over a date.
“The reason for the appeal is we think it’s harsh in terms of what went on on the night.
“We don’t think everything has been taken into consideration when you are talking about the boys in terms of age and how damaging it could be for them in their careers moving forward now.
“You’re talking about one of the brightest prospects ever in terms of right-back. This kid is going to go and play for Scotland and all of a sudden the SFA wants to ban him for that long. I don’t get it.”
Gies peace, Steven Gerrard
Absolutely spurious logic, there. Even if Nathan Patterson was the next coming of Cafu (he isn’t), he’s not therefore immune to being suspended if he breaches the rules. If he went in studs-up on a player and got red carded, would Rangers attempt to argue that sending him off would only hamper his career?
In terms of player value, consider this: Celtic signed Boli Bolingoli for £3m in 2019 [BBC]. He was a multi-million pound player, still relatively young in football terms. Yet, if Celtic said “you can’t suspend Bolingoli, he’s an international footballer worth money”, we’d be laughed out of Hampden, and rightly so.
The SFA cannot accept this line of reasoning. Honestly, it doesn’t matter that it’s Rangers – if Barça said “nah, let Messi play, he’s class” after he’d just endangered his entire squad, then surely La Liga competitors would have the exact same reaction.
If you break the very simple Covid rules, you have to take the punishment that follows. It’s incredibly simple stuff. Celtic have had to suffer from myriad missing players, and having to draft in a left-back replacement very late in the summer. Through the club’s own negligence and the nonsensical decision-making of a player, we’ve quite rightly had to take our medicine.
Just because you think your player’s particularly good, it doesn’t make them exempt.
After this season, I honestly didn’t think we’d be an example to anyone on how to deal with Covid-19. That’s Scottish Football for you though, anything can happen.