There was a time when pulling hair, standing on a rival’s toes, or grabbing at an opponent’s genitals was all part of the game, according to Scottish Cup-winning manager John Hughes. And Ryan Christie’s former boss cannot believe the furore whipped up over the Celtic star’s lunge for Alfredo Morelos’ groin during Sunday’s Old Firm clash.
Christie’s misdemeanour was captured on camera leading to a notice of complaint for violent conduct, which could land him a two-match ban depending on the outcome of Monday’s SFA hearing, but Hughes was surprised to see retrospective action taken and is hoping that the player escapes punishment.
“I said to my mate when Alfredo Morelos was sent off that surely, with the game over, the referee would do him a favour. But my mate said that going by the letter of the law he had to book him. Maybe he was right and if that’s what the game is coming to, fine, but common sense has to prevail.
“If Ryan is getting pulled up then there’s a precedent set. When I played, pulling a rival’s hair or standing on their toes was all part and parcel of the game. The game is changing right now and sometimes for the better because we’ll become better football teams if you can pass the ball without getting clattered. But there’s nothing in what Ryan done. Nothing in it whatsoever and I hope for Ryan’s sake, Celtic’s sake and the game’s sake that he gets cleared. It wasn’t a Vinnie Jones – he had a bit of venom in him!”
Christie, who has been a star turn for Celtic this term, scoring 17 goals in 33 appearances for the league leaders, ironically had groin surgery after that game but, when fit, Hughes believes the 24-year-old will shrug off the controversy and missed penalty in that match.
“Ryan bounced back from his broken jaw and the red card at Livingston where he was battered on Twitter. He’s a resilient boy, that’s why he’s at Celtic. The boy can look after himself. At Inverness, when he first broke into the team, I used to referee training games and never gave him a free-kick.
“He used to get battered, get up, laugh and get on with it. He always wanted the ball back and played with enthusiasm and a smile and the next time he would nutmeg a guy or score amazing goals.”