F OR every action there is an opposite reaction.
Admittedly, Scottish football is hardly an exact science but the laws of motion still apply, particularly when it comes to impressing an opinion on the game. Kenny Shiels has done that more than most during his time in charge at Kilmarnock – the Northern Irishman imposing his views freely on how football should be played at his club – but he has also found others more resistive when he applies his principles to them.
Take Willo Flood, for example. The Dundee United midfielder this week recalled comments Shiels made in August describing the Tannadice team as "direct but effective", Flood taking that to mean that his side were given to an unedifying long-ball game. His discontent had simmered quietly since that match, which ended with United on the end of a 3-1 defeat, but it has found its voice again as the clubs prepare to meet this evening.
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It is almost necessary to lean in closely when Flood is talking just to pick out what he is saying, but the soft-spoken Irishman's tone was made quite clear yesterday. "They beat us down at their place and I thought they showed us a lack of respect. Kenny Shiels had come out and said Dundee United were a long-ball team," said the midfielder. "It irritated the lads. It's not as though we're a team of giants."
United will be keen to stand tall at Tannadice tonight with a win likely to represent a far more satisfying response. Shiels moved to temper that piqued response by intimating that his comments have been misinterpreted, but the Kilmarnock manager has perhaps suffered for his reputation. Shiels has become renowned for speaking his mind with a rare candour. His views have the capacity to grate but it should be hoped that he never decides to keep his opinions to himself as a result.
Shiels knows his views do not always appear black and white when committed to print and when he offered a quiet rebuke of the media yesterday, he was only half-joking. "Don't put me down as furious, because you boys do that," he said. "I'm not angry, I'm just surprised as this has come from something I never said. I swear to God I didn't. I said they played to Jon Daly a lot but I didn't say they were a long-ball team. They are a good team. He is a very good player, Willo Flood, he plays a nice, short-passing game. It is amazing the way your words a distorted into things. No way are Dundee United a long-ball team; I don't know where that has come from. United have the most quality, you have Gary Mackay-Steven, Johnny Russell . . . there is a lot of quality there."
Shiels had also provoked contention after comments he made about referee Euan Norris after a defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle. That was followed by a series of phone calls with John Fleming, and later a statement from the Scottish Football Association's head of referees. The situation has been tempered after the red card issued to Cammy Bell during that match was rescinded on appeal and Shiels boiled it all down to a "storm in a tea cup".
Indeed he has redressed his opinion of Scottish officials after taking in a World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan earlier this week. "I'm not going to ever criticise Scottish referees again after I saw the Ukrainian referees at Windsor Park. That was bad refereeing. It makes Euan Norris look like [former Italian referee Pierluigi] Collina . . . God, you want to see it," he said.
Their reaction would perhaps be a sight, too.