The Hippo, who’s accepted a two-match ban for his dive, can at least console himself with the fact he’s far from alone. Players from clubs up and down Scotland have tried to con the referee before and many have been successful.
We’re already familiar with the other examples from this season - Jamie Walker against Celtic, Alex Schalk against Celtic, Moussa Dembele against a rolling football - so we’ll leave them to the side on this occasion and go through the archives for some of the worst examples from the past.
Nicola Amoruso v Celtic (2001)
The incident which sparked Martin O’Neill “extraordinary” rant, Celtic had fought back from 2-0 down and were level with Italian giants Juventus. However, a commendable draw was snatched by their grasp by Juve’s Italian striker, who flopped to the ground under the attentions of Joos Valgaeren. The hosts scored from the resulting spot-kick, while O’Neill watched on with steam emanating from his ears, and would go on to qualify from the group while Celtic finished third.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos v Hearts (2005)
Injury-time at Tynecastle. Hearts had just equalised through former Celtic striker Mark Burchill, which was about to put a huge dent in Rangers’ title ambitions. A deep ball is then sent into the penalty area. It’s sailing over the head of Kyrgiakos, until a light-bulb goes off in the Greek defender’s head. With Lee Miller in the vicinity, he throws himself to the ground, then goes chasing after referee Hugh Dallas, who initially doesn’t show any interest in the incident until the linesman flags.
On the advice of his assistant Andy Davis, the referee points to the spot. Saulius Mikoliunas (more on him later) goes rushing over and chest-bumps Davis, earning himself a red card and an eight-match ban (later reduced to five on appeal). Rangers convert the spot-kick and go on to win the title. And who says crime doesn’t pay?
Shaun Maloney v Hearts (2006)
In fairness to referee Iain Brines, this looked like a foul in real time, and Hearts defender Takis Fyssas didn’t even contest the decision. However, replays would show that Maloney successfully hurdled the challenge before deciding, with Celtic 2-1 down in the top of the table encounter, that it was a bad decision. The attacker’s feet then turned to jelly and he flopped to the ground. Fyssas was shown a straight red card for a professional foul (it was rescinded on appeal) and Celtic went on to win the game 3-2.
Hearts would fall out of the title race soon after, though that was more to do with Graham Rix being manager than this one incident.
Saulius Mikoliunas v Scotland (2007)
The dive by which all others are judged.
Scotland v Lithuania. Euro 2008 qualifier. Hampden Park.
Scotland are leading 1-0 when Mikoliunas, already disliked by the Tartan Army for being a member of Vladimir Romanov’s Lithuanian influx at Hearts, goes over in the penalty area under the attentions of Darren Fletcher.
If diving was an art form then this would be its masterpiece. The referee even had the perfect angle and still made the wrong call, such was Mikoliunas’ timing and acting skills.
The whole country briefly lost their mind in the aftermath. One prominent pundit even called for Mikoliunas to be deported for crimes against his adopted nation.
It should be noted Scotland still won 3-1 and that Garry O’Connor dived in the same game.
Alberto Gilardino v Celtic (2007)
If Miko’s dive was the masterpiece, this is a stick-figure drawing by a three-year-old with his eyes closed.
You often see players take an extra step after contact and then go down, sometimes achieving the reward they seek. After all, contact doesn’t always bring a player straight down, it can sometimes merely knock them off balance. However, the AC Milan striker, facing Celtic in the Champions League, took a full FIVE strides before going to ground after Mark Wilson slightly clipped his heel. He then had the temerity to complain about the yellow card, as if flopping to the ground with his arms outstretched was how he finished every run.
We should also mention Gilardino’s team-mate Dida for crumbling to the ground after being lightly patted on the head by a jubilant Celtic fan who’d invaded the pitch. This bizarre act achieved nothing other than a small fine for Celtic, while Dida was given a two-game banned and roundly mocked by every football supporter on the face of the earth.
Kyle Lafferty v Aberdeen (2009)
The former Rangers attacker has always been looked upon as a somewhat questionable character.
Before we go any further, it’s worth recalling this beauty of a quote from Palermo chairman Maurizo Zamparini, who once said of the player: “He is a womaniser – he disappears for a week, takes a plane to go hunt for women in Milan. His behaviour is unmanageable. He never trains, he’s completely off the rails. Kyle’s an Irishman without rules.”
Goodness knows what Mr Zamparini would have thought of Kyle’s actions during a Rangers-Aberdeen tussle at Ibrox back in 2009. Squaring up to Charlie Mulgrew, Lafferty then dropped to the ground as if the Dons’ full-back had gone all Duncan Ferguson on him.
As dastardly an action as there is on a football field. When you dive to win a penalty, you’re only really thinking about your own team. When you dive to get someone else sent off, you’re deliberately trying to cheat an opponent.
Jamie Murphy v Rangers (2010)
This is an obscure entry but after digging out old footage it deserves to be included.
Having retained the Scottish Premier League title, Rangers were in party mode with their side 3-1 up going into injury-time against Craig Brown’s Motherwell.
The visitors pulled one back. No big deal, Rangers would have thought, the win is still in the bag. Then Jamie Murphy slipped in behind and went over after trying to round Neil Alexander. There was no contact, something Alexander was fully aware of as he chased after the Motherwell youngster to give him a stern dressing down. What Alexander didn’t realise for about ten seconds was that the referee had pointed to the spot.
Motherwell scored again to earn a 3-3 draw.
Peter Pawlett v Dundee (2013)
Somewhere in the Hill Street flats there is a poster of Peter Pawlett with several darts protruding out of it.
“Never forget” is the Dundee motto when it comes to this particular incident, which has resulted in Pawlett being booed every time he takes the field against the Dens Park side.
A goal to the good in a game they must win to stave off relegation for another week, Dundee find their hopes dashed with Pawlett darts into the penalty area, anticipates contact, tucks his legs together and propels himself forward. The referee points to the spot, John Brown’s side fail to get the win they need and are relegated as a result.
You can see why they’re still more than a little cross with the player.
Brian Graham v Inverness CT (2014)
Graham pulls out a proper there’s-a-sniper-in-the-stand-and-I’ve-just-been-shot routine as he goes past Dean Brill and collapses to the earth before the referee points to the spot.
Like Neil Alexander in the earlier example, the highlight of this clip is the reaction of the goalkeeper adjudged to have committed the foul. Brill turns in anger, demanding the referee book the guilty striker, before going all Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone when he realises the official is pointing to the spot.
St Johnstone won the match, though Graham was later handed a two-match ban.
Another (dis)honourable mention goes to Derk Boerighter, who took a tumble at the same ground later in the year to win a penalty for Celtic.