My big fear for the Old Firm game - the Referee

Last updated : 26 February 2010 By jaws73
Firstly, Walter has all the squad that enabled us to hit that purple patch in December his disposal (with the possible exception of Allan McGregor). All the players have been over the Old Firm and title winning courses before and that can be a huge plus going into this type of fixture.

Secondly, although Celtic could be considered a poor side during the 2009 part of this season, their manager has disposed of a couple of players who really did perform in these encounters. I really can't stand Barry Robson and as far as Scott McDonald is concerned I am quite ambivalent towards him (thanks for the part you played in Helicopter Sunday Scott). One thing I am certain of though - I'm glad neither of them will be playing. Instead, the Celtic team will be full of Old Firm rookies and despite the protestations from their club that we will be feeling the heat because we are only a point ahead (I mean four points ahead, ach it's seven points ahead isn't it, oh aye that's right it's SEVEN POINTS ahead with A GAME IN HAND), there is no doubt that they are the ones under enormous pressure in this one. Such pressure and lack of experience wouldn't have my optimism glass exactly brimming if I was a Tim.

Of course I will have the usual niggling doubts. Will Walter pick an attacking formation with pace down both flanks (I hope he does) or will he be more conservative? Will we just get unlucky on the day and get stung by a goal against the run of play or get undone by a fluky own goal? These are the kind of butterfly in the tummy things that go on in my head on the morning of the game.

This time however I am already worrying over something which has been concerning me for some time with this fixture on the horizon. That is the performance of the referee on the day (any referee appointed that is - we now of course know it is Dougie Mcdonald).

Although we have only won once out of the four Old Firm fixtures previously controlled by this particular referee I am not in any way getting at Dougie Mcdonald (although I did think the Cousin sending off in last season's opener was harsh). No, this is more about the man in the middle, whoever he might have been, doing his profession justice and performing with the required honesty despite the enormous pressure that is on him to perhaps do otherwise.

The pressure on the referee is two-fold. Firstly, those in green and grey know that it is win at all costs for them. This can lead to desperation in the manner that they will play in terms of over-zealous (dirty) tackles and some cute stuff off the ball. The officials must be alert to this and meat out justice where it is merited without fear or favour.

Secondly, the hooped hordes and their apologists in the mhedia have been given an extraordinary amount of air time and column inches expressing how hard done by they have been this season, especially in the Old Firm encounters. Our friends at RC have even been responding to paranoid callers in a manner giving credence to ridiculous conspiracy theories (Peter McGuire "does the caller have a point though").

This second fear has me far more worried than the first. I really worry about some ridiculous decisions going against us in order to balance out these perceived injustices. After all, it is easier to do when we have such an advantage in the league race - a defeat wouldn't be totally disastrous for us but a defeat for them all but ends the race for the Championship.

This is why I really want Walter to go out with a formation that has the possibility of destroying the opposition - a good few goals rendering the decisions of the match officials inconsequential. However, if the match becomes a tighter affair, all I ask of the officials is that they do their job correctly. All will be revealed at around 2.20pm on Sunday 28th February - here's hoping I have been worrying about nothing and No. 53 is well on its way.