As the Scottish Premiership season heats up, Rangers are in a strong position at the top of the table but Celtic – to their credit – continue to hold fort in second amid a flurry of refereeing conspiracies.
For three matches in a row, Rangers have heaped the pressure on their Old Firm rivals and three times Celtic have responded by winning the game and cutting the gap.
Livingston, Hibs (more on this later) and Dundee have all fallen to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s sharpened Rangers sword whilst Ange Postecoglou has put a pin in an expectant Rangers balloon in retaliation.
Celtic have managed to eke out victories against both Aberdeen and Hearts (more on this later too) at Parkhead, whilst their victory over a lacklustre Dundee United was emphatic.
For a side who looked in tatters this summer, a fire has been lit under them and now Rangers must hold their nerve and prove why they are the top team in the country amid a run of difficult games.
But as the title race heats up, the refereeing and conspiratorial meltdown of Celtic fans is sinking to new depths in a way which Scottish football has not been used to for a very long time, perhaps ever.
In fact – courtesy of Rangers’ demotion to the bottom division of Scottish football in 2012 – there has never been a true modern incarnation of a title race where it’s the Bhoys playing catch-up.
In lieu of this, social media, rumours and butthurt appear to have made them so much worse.
Rangers conspiracies galore as Celtic meltdown reaches new heights
Conspiracy, delusion and victimhood are now rife as Celtic fans attempt to understand and legitimise the Parkhead club’s current status as Scotland’s number two.
Most of this concerns the notion that referees and Scottish football are in Rangers’ back-pocket. It doesn’t help when their own board allude to this at AGMs.
That’s the same authorities Rangers are in open dispute with and who – along with the other SPL clubs – facilitated Rangers’ demotion in 2012 to the objective and wide-ranging detriment of Scottish football.
This is also happening in the same country where Celtic won 12 straight trophies and 9* league titles, including one awarded over a Zoom call without the campaign being played to completion.
And yet, we are being tiresomely subjected to near-constant coverage surrounding referees in a way that suspiciously puts pressure on them ahead of making big calls.
You only need look at the decision to award Rangers a penalty against Hibs. Ryan Porteous fouled Ryan Kent, Kemar Roofe scored to secure a vital three points, everyone of a green persuasion went into meltdown.
That’s despite the fact it was a clear penalty.
Kemar Roofe's penalty was the difference as Rangers beat Hibernian 1-0, following Ryan Porteous' foul on Ryan Kent!
The Scottish Premiership leaders are now seven points clear of Celtic who host Hearts tomorrow live on Sky Sports📺 pic.twitter.com/Ha8bJTEGfb
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) December 1, 2021
To some Celtic fans, penalties shouldn’t be awarded based on their legitimacy but rather strung out and balanced across the division regardless of players being fouled. It is bonkers.
We’ve also seen the Parkhead side benefit recently – in the immediate aftermath of this coverage – from an offside goal to earn three points in a 1-0 win over Hearts.
It was a clear offside goal, yet there are genuine leaders in the Celtic community claiming otherwise.
🗣️"I felt today we didn't get beat by Celtic, we got beat by poor decisions from the referee and linesman. It's offside."
Hearts boss Robbie Neilson wasn't happy Celtic's winner stood against his side and believes Kyogo's goal was offside.pic.twitter.com/2qdTvY0Yws
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) December 3, 2021
The goalscorer – Kyogo Furuhashi – has also been routinely called out for attempting to get players sent off through shameless playacting and there is a sinister narrative forming from Celtic fans that challenging this is somehow racist.
All this talk about offside goals and stonewall penalties, but have any of you spared a thought for poor Kyogo? Heard he’s in hospital after this vicious challenge off the ball.#PrayForKyogo pic.twitter.com/X1ifKTcg4q
— Alonso ™ (@Alonso_55_) December 2, 2021
No, he’s cheating and there needs to be retrospective action if it continues. It’s literally the rules.
What’s worse is that the media coverage – eager to rake in hits and appealing to that sensitive part of the collective Celtic support’s psyche – are pulling at these threads to get clicks and push coverage.
To get an impression of how widespread this collective hypnosis and victimhood of the Celtic support is you just need to look at the coverage on social media.
"No football club wants favours, they want fairness. They want referees to officiate the game. The men in black have a duty of care to protect players."
— The Celtic Way (@celticway1888) December 8, 2021
Citing “honest mistakes” and giving nudges to masonic conspiracies do nothing more than position these people as fringe conspiracists in a world – outside of football – now increasingly and depressingly impacted by them.
Celtic fan conspiracies helping to soothe a Rangers truth as Scottish football points and laughs
Reality has been replaced by paranoia and conjecture at Celtic Park and it’s astonishing just how many “normal” Parkhead supporters lap this stuff up.
It’s important we call it out for a number of reasons, but most pertinently, it’s that pressure on referees and pressure on the Scottish game impacts not just Rangers but everyone else.
We all want to see the standard of officiating improved – with VAR a must – and it’s likely that if anyone will suffer from this, it’ll be both Old Firm clubs.
“Always cheated, never defeated” is a mantra aimed at Celtic fans since day dot and not once in their history has it been as embarrassingly attached to them as it is being right now.
Scottish football as a whole laughs at this; Celtic fans might not realise it, but their constant bleating is a source of huge entertainment and ridicule.
Far from give credence to it, this moonhowling is only ever met with widespread chuckling.
But the sinisterness of the entire thing is locked up in the bonkers crazyworld of the conspiracy and the threat that it could have a tangible, in-game influence if it isn’t doing so already.
The truth is, and whilst some Celtic fans will never admit it, that conspiracies, the Masons and the standard of officiating are not the things that get them so deeply upset.
It’s the very true notion that at the moment, they are the second-best team in Scotland and that Rangers are – quite simply – beating them fair and square on the park.
That’s clearly something which Celtic – and many of their fans – would rather create an entire false narrative about referees around than ever swallow with an ounce of dignity.
Meanwhile, Ibrox is set to open its gates for a special Old Firm Hogmanay game which promises to be a superb experience.