'It WAS a goal!'
'Naw it wisnae!... It couldnae have been, I had my arms at full stretch and it wis MILES above my hands.'
If you've ever played football down the local park as a kid, you'll have had this and many conversations like it. Did somebody score? Did they not? How can you tell?
In public park games between pals, it generally comes down to consensus. If enough people say 'goal', then the goal stands. It's pretty much that simple.
In professional sport, of course, such consensus would be impossible ... that's why some poor sods are employed to run around a football pitch, getting stuck in the middle of everything... to try, as best they can, to eliminate the need for that consensus.
Decisions made during an association football match are not a democracy. All final decisions are made by one person: that poor bastard stuck in the middle... the poor, put-upon match official (whether referee or assistant).
And the most important question he must ask him/herself before any decision is made is... 'Am I certain?' (Ask @craig_killie on Twitter. He has been trained as a ref and, on more than one occasion, has mentioned this very thing whilst on the @terracepodcast)
If they are not, the decision cannot, and should not, be made.
Regardless of whether the question at hand pertains to a throw in, a goal kick, whether a foul took place inside, or outside, the penalty area or, the big controversy of the moment... whether the ball - the whole ball - crossed the goal line.
On the 27th December 2017 at Tynecastle Park in Edinburgh, the Wheatfield Stand-side assistant referee, Sean Carr, obviously wasn't certain. Neither was match referee Steven McLean.
It was an incorrect decision... television replays clearly showed that on the first slow-motion replay. But, if we are honest, I suspect that not one person inside Tynecastle that night would have been confident to bet their house that it was definitely over the line.
It was harsh on Hibernian's Ollie Shaw, it was harsh on Hibernian.
But "That's football"... we've all been there.
I fully understand the cry to bring in goal-line technology... but I whole-heartedly disagree with it.
The simple reason being: There will ALWAYS be controversy in football... and that's the way it SHOULD be!
Even if the game evolves to the point that twenty two robots are facing each other inside a mega-dome that can bee seen from space while we all watch on implanted augmented reality devices in our heads, something will always happen that neither rules, equipment or even technology can remove from the game.
So let's stop now.
If it hadn't been for a far worse decision that denied Frank Lampard an equaliser, as England took on Germany in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I suspect we wouldn't even be close to having the current conversation about goal-line technology in the domestic game in Scotland.
Furthermore... if you think about it properly, it is new equipment/technology/rules that actually led to Neil Lennon's latest cause for rage.
Seriously. Look back at the history of goals in association football; what will you find?
- * Originally goals were two poles with a bit of rope between them (at that time the width and height of those items was not even written down)
- * In 1863 the decision was made to ensure that the posts were exactly twenty four feet apart - they are still this distance apart now (still no height for the rope was recorded)
- * In 1871 the rope was replaced by a tape in an attempt to make it easier to see if the ball actuall travelled between tape and ground
- * It wasn't until ten years later, in 1881, that a solid crossbar, set to a height of eight feet from the ground, was introduced - that would sort it all out, right?
- * Of course not, there was still no way - in some controversial decisions - to know, beyond doubt, that the ball had travelled through that goalmouth
- * So... nets were added. Great, that ended the controversy, right? Wrong... even in the Scottish game, the nets themselves sometimes caused controversy
- * In 1993, Dundee United's, Paddy Connolly rocketed a shot home from roughly a yard out against Partick Thistle. The ball was hit so hard that, when it bounced back off the stanchion, used to hold up the net, referee Les Motram assumed the shot had hit the crossbar.
- * So the game set about removing stanchions and forced clubs down the route of the external suspended nets we see today.
- * But even that didn't stop controversy all by itself... there have been cases in the past where a ball misses the target, passes through a poorly staked part of the side net and ends up looking like a legitimate goal - So we now have nets that are thethered to a solid pole which is then staked to the ground to prevent such things.
- * But still... as late as 2013, nets were still proving fallible, when Stefan Keissling scored a "phantom goal" for Bayer Leverkusen (against Hoffenheim), when the ball passed through a hole in the side net.
So where do we stop trying to make an imperfect game perfect?
Do we change the shape of the goalposts back to veing square? After all, if they had been square, Oli Shaw's goal at Tynecastle would never have been a discussion point. It, most likely, would have smashed harmlessly off the face of the bar and back into play.
After all, it was only due to more controversy - this time at Hampden Park in 1976 - when St Etienne accused the square posts at the famous old Glasgow ground of costing them the European Cup Final in that year. Twice they hit the woodwork in that game in a way that a round post would probably have rebounded the ball into the net... twice it smashed off a flat surface to safety. Bayern Munich won the match 1-0.
So where does it stop? If we adopt goal-line technology, what's next?
VAR? Then what? Use the VAR to start correcting even the tiniest controversy?
I know that, currently, clubs and governing bodies says "It's just for the BIG decisions" but, once you've ironed out those big decisions, what happens when some fire-cracker manager is going tonto because the opposing side were given a 'dodgy' throw in that two passes later has cost his side a goal?
And what if, like Lampard's goal against Germany, it happens during a major game in the World Cup? Who will say they're not bothered about the little decisions then?
Bottom line?... It's all about the money really, isn't it?
But in the SPFL Premiership... does that league placing money really mean that it makes sense for clubs to spend, at least, £250,000 on installing goal-line technology?
In the game that Oli Shaw's goal didn't count, Hibernian, aside from it being a derby, were attempting to protect their 4th position in the table against the team sitting in 5th place.
Last season, those placings meant a prize money difference of £110,000.
Still think shelling out quarter of a million on the next big thing is worth it?