Giorgos Giakoumakis' bold claim Celtic will win the league may not have been 'smartest thing to do'

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I wonder who was more annoyed by the comments from Giorgos Giakoumakis on Sunday? The Rangers players or Ange Postecoglou?

Confidence is a good thing. And Giakoumakis was clearly on a high after scoring a hat-trick in yet another vital victory for Celtic.

But to then say they will win the league? And that it’s ‘obvious’ Celtic are the better team? I’m not sure that was the smartest thing for Giakoumakis to do when the title race is still tight. 

Giorgos Giakoumakis (pictured) has stated Celtic will win the league and are the better team

Giorgos Giakoumakis (pictured) has stated Celtic will win the league and are the better team

The Greek striker will have no doubt annoyed the Rangers players and Brian Laudrup is not sure if it was a wise choice

The Greek striker will have no doubt annoyed the Rangers players and Brian Laudrup is not sure if it was a wise choice

Yes, Celtic have a three-point advantage and all the momentum. They are in pole position right now, while Rangers have issues to solve around their away form and the low impact of their January signings. 

Even so, a firm prediction about ending up on top is not the kind of talk you hear from Postecoglou.

I’ve been impressed by the demeanour of the Parkhead manager. He is clear about what he wants, while staying measured and respectful. 

He doesn’t seem big on provocations or mind games. He wants to concentrate only on getting the best out of his own players.

I might be wrong, but I don’t think he would have enjoyed seeing Giakoumakis create those headlines.

Laudrup will be surprised if Rangers didn't call on Giankoumakis' comments as motivation at some stage

Laudrup will be surprised if Rangers didn’t call on Giankoumakis’ comments as motivation at some stage

They will have been noted at Ibrox. That’s certain. If you asked most Rangers players, I’m sure they would say publicly that they weren’t interested and were thinking only of their own team. The usual stuff. But it will be different inside the dressing room.

I can recall many times in my days at Rangers, before cup finals or Old Firm games, when Archie Knox would come in and point out what this guy or that guy had said.

He would put it on the wall so we could see it throughout the week and then go out and show them exactly what we were about.

It’s definitely something a management team can use. Even these days. I’d be surprised if Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his staff didn’t call on it at some point. It’s part and parcel of the game.

Of course, that won’t matter if Celtic keep winning and Giakoumakis keeps scoring. But if those things don’t happen, and Rangers can rediscover consistency, the Greek striker might wish he’d picked his words more carefully.

 

Var progress comes at a price

Var progress comes at a price 

Progress comes with a price tag. And where VAR is concerned, it’s one Scottish Premiership clubs must be prepared to pay if the league isn’t to be left far behind its European counterparts.

Another weekend of fixtures brought more refereeing controversies. At Tannadice on Sunday, Giovanni van Bronckhorst was left to lament the absence of VAR after Rangers had two penalty claims ignored in their damaging draw with Dundee United.

Just three days earlier, technology had come successfully to the fore in the Ibrox side’s outstanding Europa League win over Borussia Dortmund. 

Boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst was left to lament the absence of VAR after Rangers had two penalty claims ignored

The contrast between top-level football and the Scottish domestic game was made painfully clear.

Anything that might impact on the title race obviously hogs the headlines, but VAR is about much more than whatever decisions have upset either half of the Old Firm on a specific day.

It’s about the standing of Scottish football. If the Premiership wants to consider itself on the same train as the big and medium-sized leagues elsewhere, it needs to have VAR on board.

There was supposed to be a vote among clubs this month. That has now been pushed back, with some chairmen seemingly swithering over the costs of introducing the system next season.

If the Scottish Premiership wants to consider itself as a big or medium-sized league it needs to have VAR on board

If the Scottish Premiership wants to consider itself as a big or medium-sized league it needs to have VAR on board

I can completely understand that other clubs are not as well off as Rangers or Celtic and have to be careful with their budgets. At some point, though, money must be spent if the quality of the game is to be improved.

No-one wants an exciting, vibrant football country like Scotland to be stuck in the past. 

Sadly, that will be the case if referees are not given the help their peers in other nations now take for granted.

If you had asked me about VAR two years ago, I’d have said Scottish football should wait. 

Money must be spent if the quality of the game is to be improved in the Scottish Premiership

Money must be spent if the quality of the game is to be improved in the Scottish Premiership

The decision-making was too slow, it was draining a lot of spontaneity from football. But now they have found a good balance with it.

This is the first season we’ve had it in the Danish Superliga. I would never claim the competition in my homeland is bigger than the Scottish Premiership so it seems strange it is now more advanced in terms of how games are officiated.

It’s not been perfect. Nothing is. Initially, people were quite reluctant to admit it was making things better. 

You know how it can be with new technology and changes. There was a sense of ‘oh, let’s go back to the old ways’.

But the old ways were a lot of wrong decisions from referees and linesmen. And people being really annoyed by them. It’s not just in Scotland that such issues exist.

The Danish Superliga has introduced VAR this season and it has gradually won over the Danish people

The Danish Superliga has introduced VAR this season and it has gradually won over the Danish people

Now, with the opportunity for decisions to be corrected, VAR has gradually won over Danish people.

As I say, it’s never going to be a 100-per-cent solution for every complaint. Humans are still involved.

Even with VAR, there are decisions that are not correct in some people’s eyes. Criticism and controversies can still occur. But it takes down the percentage of mistakes in a very significant way.

In the past, we had the same debates in Denmark about the standard of refereeing not being good enough. Sometimes, it was an easy get-out for players and managers after bad results.

But now these same referees have the support of VAR and there is no doubt it has improved the quality of officiating overall. It’s been worth it.

Scottish teams get a taste of it on the European stage. And last Thursday night in Germany provided the perfect example of how big a difference VAR can make. 

But for its interventions, that first leg against Dortmund might have ended up 2-2 and not as one of the greatest European nights in Rangers’ history.

Rangers got a taste of VAR in their 4-2 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League

Rangers got a taste of VAR in their 4-2 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League

The French officials made errors in their initial decisions, missing the handball penalty and ruling out the fourth goal.

Remember, these are guys at the very top of the game. Referee Clement Turpin took charge of last season’s Europa League final and has been to the World Cup and European Championships. 

Even with all that experience, he can still get things wrong. But with VAR, it was simple to make corrections and the difference to the outcome was huge.

That’s how it should be in the Scottish Premiership. For every club and in every game.

VAR is here to stay. I think that seems obvious. So perhaps all those who have to make the decision should ask themselves a different question.

Can Scottish football really afford not to have it as soon as possible?

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