Credit to Livingston boss David Martindale for refusing to pile on the criticism towards Celtic.
The Hoops have been battered all over the place by supporters, the media, and even the Scottish Government. This came on the back of the Dubai debacle that led to two positive tests and 16 close contacts.
Celtic’s weaknesses had never been so easily exploited as they were over the last week. Both Hibernian and Livingston avoided defeat at Parkhead, and the latter will feel they should’ve won the contest.
But Martindale, who could very easily be scathing of the Hoops for their conduct, isn’t having it. In fact, he’s shown genuine class as he expressed sympathy for the club and bigged up the Hoops’ talent.
As quoted in the Scottish Daily Mail (print edition, 19/01, page 85), Martindale said: “I have a lot of sympathy for them. This is really difficult to control. They have gone to DUbai and everything is off the bac of tha. But the player could have picked it up outwith the trip. Now Celtic are back and there is another case.
“I wouldn’t wish this on any club. I think we all have to stick together and help each other. It’s not great and it could happen to any one of us.
“If there was going to be any vulnerability about them it was probably going to be in the Old Firm game. And I thought they played exceptional in that game. They’ve got players in that squad and players in the starting I who have played at the highest level, so I don’t think that will be a problem.”
David Martindale represents Livingston well; lets Celtic off here
Martindale could absolutely rip into Celtic here if he wanted to.
Some will maybe say he’s pleased with this whole saga. After all, it gave his Livingston team a chance to face a weakened Celtic side at Parkhead. A game they almost certainly would’ve lost had our first-team come back from Dubai and been allowed to play.
Perhaps there’s some merit in that, but it’s a sign of the class of the man that he hasn’t looked to go all in. In fact, he’s been a real defender of Celtic over the last week. Nobody has done more from outside the club to try and shield them from criticism.
Remember, after Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Parkhead, David consistently reminded everyone of the fact Celtic had so many players missing. He wasn’t willing to pretend he was up against the Hoops’ strongest side. I think you have to respect that approach and that honesty. He knows he’s in for a bigger challenge this evening.
As are we of course. We haven’t lost in any of our three trips to Livingston since they were promoted back in 2018. We suffered a 0-0 draw there under Brendan Rodgers, before Lennon provided us with our first loss to the West Lothian club in our history. A late Tom Rogic equaliser secured another draw for Celtic at the Tony Macaroni Arena last season.
Tonight’s game will be anything but straightforward. But when Neil Lennon looks over to the other dugout tonight, he’ll see a figure that’s done all he can to big his team up for him.