The boy’s an idiot

What had Alfredo Morelos done to justify Neil McCann calling him an idiot? Did the striker run over to the Hearts fans, reveal a vest with ‘GGTTH’ on it and launch into Sunshine on Leith? Was the Rangers number 20 commenting on an article having only read the headline? Had the Colombian just agreed with a James English tweet?

Having reviewed the incident from more than one angle, Morelos can clearly be seen…knee-sliding, pointing down at the pitch and putting his finger to his lips. Obviously there’s only so much you can say about the incident without prejudicing the inevitable trial, but it feels like a slight overreaction. 

The 26-year-old scored twice on Wednesday night as Rangers beat Hearts 3-0 at Edinburgh. As he celebrated his second goal, Neil McCann told BBC Sportsound listeners: “There he’s away again, look, the boy’s an idiot. The boy’s an idiot.”

The pundit went on to say: “I just don’t understand it. He gets his goal, and I think he has been good tonight, but I don’t know why he is doing that.

“He is just antagonising the Hearts fans, and all it takes is someone taking umbrage to that and launching themselves over the barriers. There’s no need. Maybe it’s a bit strong to call him that, but I don’t see why he wants to do it.”

Yes Neil, a bit strong. 

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If fans spend an evening calling you a fat b*****d, you’re entitled to a bit of piss-taking when you score against their team. You’ve done your job as a footballer, and now you get to have a bit of fun with it. 

Fun is the key word, as between VAR and the Celebration Police the game is being hampered by people looking to drain it of any joy or spontaneity. Okay, you can celebrate, but only after we’ve made you wait three minutes while looking at a screen. And, after those three minutes, you can only celebrate in a manner which we deem acceptable. 

The Herald: 'You give it out, you get it back, you move on. It’s part of the game''You give it out, you get it back, you move on. It’s part of the game' (Image: SNS Group)

Were those Hearts fans personally offended by Morelos’ celebration? Doubtful. You give it out, you get it back, you move on. It’s part of the game. Some supporters were wound up by the player’s goading, but their response didn’t include insults that crossed the line or bottles thrown in his direction. One woman in a pink hat even seemed to find it amusing. Which it was.

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With fans so close to the pitch, few grounds in Scotland encourage player/fan interaction as much as Tynecastle. There are not many better sights in our game than an opponent attempting to take a throw-in surrounded by 100 v-signs. 

Whether it’s at Tynecastle or anywhere else, if fans do retaliate with violence or unacceptable comments they deserve to be punished, but that behaviour is entirely on them. “All it takes is someone taking umbrage to that and launching themselves over the barriers”, suggested McCann, but if you can’t handle a footballer laughing at you without running onto the pitch that says a lot more about you than it does about the footballer. 

He might be wrong in this instance, but at least McCann is consistent when it comes to players provoking supporters.

It’s a point McCann apparently once made to his teammates during his time as a Rangers player, although it’s hard to make out exactly what he said because he was in the middle of a huddle at Celtic Park at the time.

In fairness, he’s always keen to hear other people’s opinions on the subject. Indeed, when he scored for Hearts at Easter Road in 1997, the curious winger even ran past Hibs fans with his hand to his ear. 

McCann is generally popular among Rangers fans and not necessarily one of Scottish football’s more controversial pundits, which made his comments all the more surprising. A number of tweets criticising him on Wednesday night essentially amounted to ‘I normally like McCann, but he’s talking s***e here’. 

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At home, at work and during the commute between those two places we are constantly restricted by rules and regulations. Football is supposed to provide a bit of escapism. Not only should fans antagonising a player and that player responding in the same spirit be condoned, it should be encouraged. 

It’s not the celebrations we need to get rid of, it’s the Celebration Police.