HENNING BERG has accused UEFA of destroying everything they claim to stand for by reinstating Celtic in the Champions League qualifying stage and believes his directors at Legia Warsaw will take their appeal against the decision to the highest possible level.
The head coach of the Polish club is furious with the order from European football's governing body that his side must forfeit Wednesday's 2-0 win over Celtic at Murrayfield for fielding the suspended defender, Bartosz Bereszynski, as an 86th-minute substitute and accept a 3-0 defeat, which puts them out of the tournament on away goals following a 4-1 victory in the home leg.
Legia officials believed Bereszynski had served the three-game ban picked up when he was sent off against Apollon Limassol of Cyprus in their final match of the Europa League last season. He missed both ties against the Irish side St Patrick's Athletic in the second qualifying round of the Champions League and then sat out the first leg against Celtic, but it has transpired that he was not officially registered with UEFA as part of the squad for those initial meetings with St Pat's.
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Celtic are now preparing for a qualifying play-off against NK Maribor with the first leg taking place in Slovenia on August 19 or 20. Legia, given five days to lodge an appeal with UEFA, are preparing for war with the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport already looking like a potential port of call.
Berg certainly cannot believe his team have been ejected from the tournament and denied a multi-million pound payday because of what he regards as little more than a simple, clerical error. "UEFA are very quick to fly the Fair Play flag, but, now, they are doing the opposite," stated the former Rangers defender.
"It is shocking and contrary to the way European football should be run in terms of fair play and sporting competition. I am shocked. We had a player who received a red card in the Europa League last season and that stood over the first three matches in the Champions League qualifiers this season. Hence, he was ready for the fourth match in Europe, away against Celtic. The mistake our administration made is that he was not listed among the 25 names for the game against St. Patrick's.
"This little, technical mistake with him not being on this paper without even playing has taken away our chance of getting into the Champions League, which would have been a dream for this club and these players who have worked so hard."
"We will appeal this, definitely. We will go as high as we can because we do not think this is the right decision. For UEFA to make it, with the consequences of it for what has happened, is unbelievable."
Berg's Norwegian countryman, Ronny Deila, was certainly not for arguing last night. The Celtic manager looked positively sheepish over being given such a remarkable opportunity to atone for a dreadful performance against the Poles and offered words of sympathy to the Legia management team.
"I first heard about it on [Thursday] night on the internet, but it was speculation then," he said. "It is very hard to talk about it because I feel sorry for Legia. I know some of the people involved and I know what is at stake. "It has been a very strange day and my first thoughts go to Legia and my friends from Norway.
"They put on a very good performance and, now, find themselves out because of this thing. Of course I feel for Henning. It must be very hard to deal with that."
Berg argues that UEFA permitted Debrecen, of Hungary, to remain in European competition in 2010 after sanctioned by Ronald Koeman, the Southampton manager.
Newcastle United are due
to receive a cut of the fee under the terms of the deal that saw Forster move to Glasgow for £2m in 2012 in the wake
of a successful loan spell, but the Celtic chief executive, Peter Lawwell, will now be under pressure to use these funds
to strengthen the squad.
Manager Ronny Deila has already stated that he expects to receive a percentage of any fees brought in to reinvest
in new talent and the need for new recruits has been made
all the clearer following the incredible reprieve that has
set up a Champions League qualifying play-off with
NK Maribor of Slovenia.
Celtic, of course, lost 6-1
on aggregate to Legia Warsaw in the second qualifying round, but the Polish club have been punished by UEFA for fielding
a player that was technically suspended and have to give
up their place to the team they conquered pending an appeal.
Deila faced the media yesterday afternoon and
was suitably calm about the prospect of losing some of his leading players with Virgil van Dijk, Adam Matthews and
Kris Commons also attracting interest from England.
"Everything can happen," said Deila. "I have lived through these transfer windows and you must adjust. Someone goes out and someone comes in. That kind of circulation
can be good for the team.
"When you are a winning team, it's very important to get new faces in. You keep up the energy and the challenges within the side.
"Still having the Champions League could also make
it easier to get players in."
Forster set a new Scottish league record for consecutive clean sheets, passing former Aberdeen goalkeeper Bobby Clark's achievement from 1971, by going 13 matches and 1,256 minutes without losing a goal.
He earned a place in the England squad for the World Cup on account of his form
at Celtic - although he did not play as Roy Hodgson's third choice - and leaves with Craig Gordon, brought in on a free transfer over the course of the summer, and Lukasz Zaluska now vying to be Forster's permanent replacement.
Gordon conceded six goals in a friendly with Tottenham Hotspur in Helsinki last weekend, but insists he is
fit enough play regularly after more than two years struggling with knee problems.
"The knee is holding up,"
he said. "I can kick the ball, chuck the ball about and kick
it long into the other team's half. Those are the things
I had struggled to do."