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PUT it down to a conspiracy. Put it down to intimidation.

 

Put it down to global warming, the credit crunch or Haringey social services if it makes you happy.

 

But this morning, I�m putting it down as pure, bald fact.

 

Celtic have now had FIVE blatantly wrong refereeing decisions go their way this season.

 

And it�s driving managers, players, directors and fans of every other club round the twist.

 

That�s not Celtic�s fault. They are the same as everyone else, happy to accept the breaks when they come along.

 

It�s just a pity for the rest of us they come along so often.

 

If you�re a Rangers fan, you�ll be convinced the SFA are deliberately trying to stop your team winning the league.

 

You�re wrong, though.

 

Fact is, we�re all suffering from Gordon Strachan�s rub of the green. We�re all feeling like they have 12 men on the park.

 

In 15 games, Celtic have been handed crucial freebies against St Mirren � twice � Dundee United, Falkirk and Hamilton.

 

August 10: Eddie Smith sent Saints defender Will Haining off for an offence he didn�t commit and gave a match-winning penalty they weren�t due.

 

August 17: Charlie Richmond denied United a stonewall penalty when Gary Caldwell brought down Roy O�Donovan in a game that finished 1-1.

 

August 24: Iain Brines allowed a Stephen McManus punch into Falkirk�s net to stand as a goal.

 

November 16: Steve Conroy showed Hamilton defender Martin Canning a straight red AND gave a penalty for a foul on Cillian Sheridan that was two yards outside the box.

 

And now we have Willie Collum. The SFA�s golden child. Personally mentored by Hugh Dallas. Off soon to handle his next big European tie.

 

Giving a yellow card to Artur Boruc for racing out of his box and straight-legging Craig Dargo in the thigh. I�d have more sympathy with Collum had he missed the incident altogether. Because to see it and decide it wasn�t violent conduct simply makes him look incompetent.

 

I�ve written plenty times that Collum�s the worst kind of referee, one who knows the rules inside out but doesn�t have a clue about the game.

 

But don�t take the huff, chief. Because you�re far from alone.

 

Five different whistlers have given Celtic those five vital calls and plenty more have supplied evidence to suggest this is the worst batch in our game�s history.

 

Back in August, the hugely experienced Stuart Dougal missed James McArthur handling the ball into the net for Hamilton against Dundee United.

 

Two weeks later, linesman Billy Baxter convinced ref Craig Thomson to disallow what would have given Rangers a last-minute winner at Aberdeen for an offside that never was.

 

Our old pal Smith drove both sides crazy in the 1-1 Edinburgh derby in October, first by ruling out a Christian Nade goal for a shove on keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay no one else saw and then denied Derek Riordan what looked an obvious penalty.

 

Mike McCurry sent off Aberdeen left back Charlie Mulgrew against Hibs and gave a penalty when the correct decision should have been offside against Steven Fletcher.

 

For his next trick, he then gave Falkirk a penalty at Killie when Graham Barrett clearly cut across Jamie Hamill and went down without being fouled.

 

Kris Boyd�s second goal in a 3-1 win at Hamilton last month was offside � to everyone bar referee Dougie McDonald and his officials.

 

And in the 90th minute of last week�s Challenge Cup Final, with Airdrie and Ross County locked at 1-1, Callum Murray and linesmen Mark Doyle were the only people in the ground who didn�t see Diamonds defender Marc Smyth handle in his own box.

 

Smyth would have been sent off, County could won the trophy. Instead, the Irishman rubbed salt in their wounds by scoring the winner in a penalty shootout.

 

Though we only got that far after Doyle gave County scored their second from a corner when one of their OWN players clearly toed the ball out the park.

 

In that final, I watched fourth official Crawford Allan spend two hours chasing Airdrie boss Kenny Black up and down the touchline.

 

On Saturday, he refereed United against Hamilton in exactly the same way. Never in control, not seeing the incidents he needed to see, only the reaction to those incidents.

 

That�s a recipe for failure. That�s why he booked nine and sent one off � yet didn�t deal with constant timewasting by Accies keeper Tomas Cerny or punish dreadful challenges on him by Jon Daly and Lee Wilkie.

 

He was off the pace. Out of his depth. Chasing the game like a giraffe trying to catch a beach ball in a hurricane.

 

I�ve listed plenty of clear-cut decisions here. Haven�t even touched the dozens more that have been debatable, the free kicks that go the wrong way and lead to goals, the fair tackles that lead to sendings-off.

 

That should be incredibly worrying for the SFA, the SPL and the SFL.

 

They should be moving heaven and earth to improve the standard pronto, to give the Collums and Allans of the world a crash course in how football�s played in the real world.

 

Instead all we get is mumblings about how the more pressure we lump on, the more mistakes they�ll make.

 

Well you know what? If they can�t take the stick, they shouldn�t be in the damn job.

 

It�s time they toughened up, wised up and bucked up.

 

But there are two chances of that happening.

 

Oh sure, they want respect. In fact, they demand it.

 

But did they ever think to try and earm it? Or maybe try to show some?

 

Don�t be silly, son. This relationship�s a one way street, all take and no give.

 

And right now, what they�re taking is the p**s.

 

http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/sport/columnists/billleckiesports/article1962219.ece

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