By Scott Gibson
We have had everything, from death threats to referees to Kilmarnock becoming title contenders. It’s been a thrilling and a riveting fight at the top of the league table.
Yet, it’s not been just the top of the table that has kept us Scottish Football fanatics glued to their TV screens, teams such as Dundee, St Mirren and Hamilton have failed to pick up the majority of their points and find themselves in a dog fight to remain in the top flight.
The January transfer window is in full swing currently and there have been some big moves. Big names like Jermain Defoe coming north of the border to sign for Rangers, closely followed by Steven Davis, which has given Rangers a boost to their title challenge. Stevie Harrigan, a member of the Rangers podcast ‘Heart and Hand’ thinks these kind of signings are down to the manager: ” I think it’s got a lot to do with the manager. It wasn’t so long ago Rangers were bringing in players like Francisco Sandaza and struggling to get players to come from Kilmarnock and Dundee Utd.
“They’re coming up here because they want to win things and work with the manager.”
Clyde 1’s Gordon Duncan is interested to see the impact these big players make: “Of course big names mean an enhanced profile for the Scottish game and that can be a huge positive but it has to be about more than the name. I’m all for players and managers with big reputations coming to Scotland but only if they show why they’ve earned those reputations once they get here. Rodgers, Clark and Gerrard (so far) have done that. It will be exciting to see what the likes of Defoe and Davis can bring to our game in the second half of the season.”
Their title challengers Kilmarnock have suffered a major blow to win their first top flight title since 1965. On loan winger Greg Stewart was recalled to his parent club Birmingham. One Kilmarnock fan said, “Fair play to the boy- one of the best players I can remember watching. It’s about time he kicked on to bigger things.” Eamonn Brophy is being monitored by Leeds United and with Jordan Jones angering a few fans after securing his move to Ibrox on a pre-contract, Steve Clarke will have to dip into the market and strengthen his side.
It’s not been all positive in the Scottish top flight however. There have been some major refereeing controversies which has led to coins being thrown at officials and death threats being sent of referees. John Beaton officiated the Old Firm Derby in December where Rangers ran out 1-0 winners, but Beaton, to the frustration of Celtic fans, did not punish Rangers bad boy Alfredo Morelos after he was seen to kick out at Celtic skipper Scott Brown and Right-back Ralston.
The outcome of all this has led to Beaton receiving a police escort into Somerset Park for his own protection but moreover, a meeting in Edinburgh where all the Scottish officials attended so they could vent their anger over the abuse received on a weekly basis.
Stevie Harrigan believes the referees are unfairly treated and a case can be made that these kind of incidents occur in most games.
“I don’t think there was much in it, stuff like that goes on in every game. These things go on in every game up and down the country and Morelos wasn’t the only player that day, Christie got away with a few and Scott brown again, he continue to get away with them. I think it’s a wee bit sour grape from the other side.
“Referees are only human, they’re going to make mistakes. I think it’s a bit of a cop out for pundits, players and managers now to go and blame the referee.”
Gordon Duncan believes the answer to poor decisions is not full time referees: “Having watched full time referees in England and Europe make similar/worse mistakes, I’m not convinced by the “full time” argument. Of course VAR would help and therefore should happen if (big if) the money can be found.”
Harrigan believes that the second half of the season will be just as, if not more, exciting than the first.
“I think it’s gonna be a rollercoaster season, I think it’s one of them, strap yourselves in! I expect Kilmarnock to fall away slightly now. I think it will be a two way title race, points will be dropped. The question will be who can stay the most injury free and who can start to build up a wee bit of momentum. But I don’t expect to see that till after the split. I think it’ll go right down to the wire this year.”