Hibernian sporting director left fuming over Celtic build-up; discloses pre-match PFA chat

By David Walton

January 12, 2021

Hibernian sporting director Graeme Mathie has vented his fury over the pre-Celtic build-up yesterday.

Hibs had been looking for an extra round of testing to occur before last night’s game at Parkhead to give them peace of mind. This came after Celtic recorded one positive case and 15 close contacts after a trip to Dubai. Multiple players who went on the trip to the UAE were left free to play last night.

However, despite testing negative after returning from the trip at the end of last week, Hibs weren’t satisfied. They released a statement claiming that Celtic and the SFA had rejected their requests. They were also informed that they had no option but to play the game.

This is something that didn’t go down too well with sporting director Mathie, who disclosed that he had been on the phone to PFA Scotland to resolve the situation but to no avail.

“It’s different”

As quoted by the Daily Record, the furious Hibs chief said: “What we’re dealing with over the course of this weekend is unprecedented. It’s different to any other situation we’ve faced so far in football. And certainly, in my view and our view, it should have been treated as such. I would say I didn’t think it was an unreasonable request. I know it’s not necessarily something that’s been done before.

“But it was something I thought would give our players and staff peace of mind about coming into the environment tonight, if they’d been able to do that. It was something we requested and something that was rejected – both by our opponents and the league.

“It’s right that I can go and ask some relevant questions of the relevant people. Unfortunately the answers we got weren’t what I was looking for. The main conversation I had was with Fraser Wishart at PFA Scotland.

“We need to understand that we’re employers and we have employees. I spoke to Fraser about his take on it, asked if there were any members expressing concerns. But the conversation didn’t get much further before we understood that we had to come and play the game, anyway.”

Hibernian sporting director understandably annoyed; but Celtic had a fit team available to play

At the end of the day it was simple. Celtic had a fit and available team to play. A team full of players not deemed as close contacts to the positive-testing Chris Jullien. Therefore, the game had to be played.

You can understand why Hibs were perhaps nervous of course. After all, they had no evidence these players weren’t around Jullien during their Dubai camp. In fact, it’s most likely that some of them were at one stage or another.

So an extra round of testing to put Hibs at ease was understandable. The incubation period means that players could test negative on one day then days later come back positive. That’s the unpredictable nature of this virus. The last thing Hibs want is one of their own testing positive.

Celtic and Hibernian battle it out last night (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But these are the rules at the end of the day. All the rules have been adhered to and the SFA and Celtic believed the game was safe to play. This would be the same for any club so its unfair to pretend Celtic are calling any shots here.

Equally so, you have to sympathise with Hibs. Listen, I’m no fan of the Easter Road club, but we put them in a horrible position. A position that clearly made them uncomfortable whilst also forcing them to play out the fixture unsure of their own safety in doing so.

The game going ahead had to be done given the rules in place. The inconvenience of it all, however, isn’t on. The sooner our club apologises to the fans and Hibernian Football Club, the better. I won’t hold my breath.

In other news, Gavin Strachan has offered this excuse for Christopher Jullien’s trip to Dubai, but it won’t wash.