We’re continually being told that this Premiership title-race could be one of the closest in living memory. That it could go right down to the wire. That every single little advantage matters.
It was therefore perhaps a little bit surprising to see our title rivals Rangers given the luxury of a 3pm kick-off at Livingston on Sunday. Especially after we had been sent to Almondvale for a much earlier start in similar circumstances last month.
High noon had been the kick-off time chosen when we lost our unbeaten league record against Gary Holt’s side in early October. We were battered and bruised that day, beaten by the hungrier team. There are no excuses on that front. Yet you wonder if things would have been different had we been given a fairer crack of the whip.
We had just come off our comprehensive Europa League win over Cluj prior to that game. Similarly, Rangers were also in European action prior to their trip to Livingston – but they got a full three hours extra to recover and prepare.
Given that both games were on the same television channel – Sky Sports – you do have to question why there was such a disparity in kick-off times.
Decision follows on from recent Gerrard comments
The issue isn’t lost on Gers boss Steven Gerrard either. He commented on the importance of later kick-off times in September.
He told the Telegraph: “I probably haven’t been up here long enough to maybe bring that up – but it is not good, is it?
“You are kicking off at eight o’clock on a Thursday night and your players, with the adrenaline, can’t get to sleep until three or four o’clock in the morning – and then our league, who are supposed to be our governing body who help us, go and agree a kick-off time at 12:15 on Sunday.”
Well it seems that someone has been listening to the Englishman, and decided to grant his side an extended break as a result.
So far this season, Celtic have followed up Europa League games with Sunday kick-offs at noon (twice), 12:15 and 13:00. Our trip to Ross County on December 1st is also set for a midday start, just two and a bit days after our game against Rennes.
Some fans may remember at 4pm kick-off against Kilmarnock last season – and Scott Brown’s infamous goal. That followed on from a Europa League clash and gave the team a perfect chance to recover from their midweek outing.
A later kick-off on a Sunday is by no means a bad idea. But the governing body, television companies, or whoever else agrees kick-off times, have to be fair and impartial with who they are dishing them out to.
Otherwise they leave themselves open to this kind of questioning.