Tam McManus: Trust me, goalkeepers continue to get away with murder

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Another thrilling week in Scottish football. But sadly another week of refereeing decisions being the major talking point.

It’s sad really because yet again we had some brilliant games and sensational goals being scored. Young guys like Jake Hastie – who ripped in a world-class goal at St Mirren and is rapidly making real name for himself at Motherwell like a few others at Fir Park.

Alfredo Morelos was simply unplayable at Pittodrie for Rangers. The Colombian’s performance – up until stupidly yet again getting an early bath – was one I would have no hesitation in showing to any young striker. It was a display full of controlled aggression, power and quality with a sensational goal to add to his opener to boot. We should be talking about the positives in the game here but yet again everything is overshadowed by the refereeing decisions.

Firstly, and I took a lot of stick over this on social media in the aftermath of a fabulous Aberdeen v Rangers game, I thought Bobby Madden had a very good game. He got every major decision spot on bar one in what was a devilishly tough game to referee. Now I understand that sounds contradictory as he missed a very poor tackle from Allan McGregor on Lewis Ferguson which was a clear red card and penalty for Aberdeen. That would have changed the game, which I’m not disputing – but I think the reason that Bobby did not give the decision to Aberdeen is the fact that for years goalkeepers have had free reign to come out and smash outfield players without punishment. It seems acceptable that as long as a goalkeeper has possession of the ball anything after that is non punishable. It is very rare that a referee will give a foul against a goalkeeper after he collects the ball and follows through on the attacking player.

Let’s be honest if the McGregor tackle was committed anywhere else on the park it’s a red card. But because goalkeepers are so well protected they continue to get away with murder and are covered by the ‘well they need to protect themselves’ train of thought. If it’s not coming out with boots flying, it’s their knees. Not once in 17 years as a professional did I go in to hurt a goalkeeper. Really, what is the point in that? If I couldn’t get the ball or had a chance to score like most strikers I pulled out of the tackle. I honestly don’t think that’s the case with some goalkeepers. Allan McGregor got away with one earlier in the season against Kristoffer Ajer of Celtic and Craig Gordon has had a couple of dreadful tackles on attacking players and not been punished either.

I played in a game for Hibernian at Parkhead back in 2003 and I went into a 50-50 bouncing ball with the then-Celtic goalkeeper Javier Sanchez Broto. I pulled out of the tackle, which was just aswell as Broto came out with his boot high and caught me flush on the shoulder. I had four stud marks and was lucky I saw it coming and shirked the tackle. I had to come off, immediately. In actual fact I still have the picture of it in my house and it’s a dreadful tackle. It’s a foul anywhere else on the park and far more dangerous than McGregor on Ferguson.

The referee just played on after I had gone off. It was incredible. The explanation from the official that day was that the goalkeeper had to protect himself and it was just his momentum that ploughed into me, nearly taking my shoulder clean off.

That is why I think Bobby Madden would have found it difficult to give the red card to McGregor and the penalty to Aberdeen. It just seems to be widely accepted that goalkeepers have carte blanche to do what they like if they collect the ball. That’s absolute nonsense and needs to be looked at closely. But until one referee is brave enough to give a foul in the penalty box against a goalkeeper who ploughs into a striker dangerously or with intent to injure then they will continue to get away with it like Gordon and McGregor. The rest will follow as soon as one referee gives a penalty, but I don’t see penalties being awarded anytime soon. Goalkeepers of course are entitled to protect themselves but it has to be within reason and without endangering an opponent. They have to abide by the same rules as outfield players.

That is why I have a slight degree of sympathy for Bobby. It would have been a brave call because keepers are never punished for that type of foul but also the right one. He got that wrong but he also got a lot right. I just hope now that lessons have been learned.