Andy Walker discusses the effect of simulation in the Scottish Premiership

Celtic were awarded a penalty during a 4-0 win at St Mirren on Wednesday, with questions raised over whether it should have been given; it comes after Celtic striker Albian Ajeti was cleared of a two-game ban for simulation against Kilmarnock

St Mirren's Ryan Flynn was booked for a challenge on Greg Taylor, which led to a Celtic penalty
Image: St Mirren's Ryan Flynn was booked for a challenge on Greg Taylor, which led to a Celtic penalty

In his latest column, Andy Walker discusses the effect of simulation in the Scottish Premiership after recent incidents made the headlines...

Don't you just love controversy in football?

I was working on the St Mirren vs Celtic game on Wednesday night in Paisley where Celtic won by a comfortable four-goal margin.

Jim Goodwin's men have been more than a match for Neil Lennon's Celtic recently but for the first time this season, I thought there was a gulf in class between the sides. Celtic won comfortably.

But there was no escape from one of the biggest talking points of the game, namely the dubious penalty Celtic were awarded by referee Don Robertson after Greg Taylor and Ryan Flynn collided inside the box.

Robertson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Odsonne Edouard scored to put the game beyond St Mirren's reach. But given that Celtic striker Albian Ajeti had just avoided a two-game ban for 'diving', or simulation as the refs call it, everyone is having their say on the behaviour of footballers.

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Highlights of Celtic's 4-0 win at St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership

Do they cheat? Do they dive? Where do they draw the line on gamesmanship? And how seriously do they consider sportsmanship to be an important part of the game?

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For the avoidance of doubt, I am happy to admit that I won a few 'dubious' penalties and free-kicks in my career. I would also admit that I wasn't in the least bit interested in making life easy for the man in the middle.

I always regarded the penalty box as the most delicate area of the pitch and I understood the significance of winning a foul there for my team. When I was playing for money, points, prestige and possibly my future, I had absolutely no qualms about winning a "suspicious" foul.

My loyalty was always to my team-mates and I would have done most things for them or my club. Staying on my feet at all costs wasn't something I thought was the right thing to do on every occasion. Defenders forcing me to adjust my stride or to take another touch before shooting could be deemed an offence in my eyes.

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Albian Ajeti says accusations he dived to win a penalty in Celtic's win over Kilmarnock are 'not true', after the striker's charge for simulation was overturned

So, if I went down, referees might give me a penalty kick. Lo and behold, sometimes they did and on plenty of occasions, they didn't. It's sport and it's undeniable that the referee can influence a tight game with a debatable decision.

The charge by the SFA on Ajeti was an interesting one. I was also working on Kilmarnock vs Celtic for Sky Sports and at the time, I didn't think it was a penalty, nor did I think it was a 'dive'.

People clearly have wildly different views on what a 'dive' is. I always thought that a 'dive' was when a player went to ground when there was no contact whatsoever. On this incident, when Ajeti came into contact with Kilmarnock's Colin Doyle, I thought it was a needless challenge from the goalkeeper but, in my view, not enough for a penalty.

To be clear, there are times when it can be neither a penalty nor an act of simulation. It doesn't always have to be one or the other. No one would have been outraged if Kevin Clancy had not awarded a penalty for the Ajeti 'foul'.

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Kilmarnock and Celtic

If a referee determines that the player is guilty of trying to 'cause a match official to make an incorrect decision', he is of course within his rights to issue a yellow card. I must say it doesn't make any sense for that same incident to be looked at again and it's suddenly worthy of a two-game ban.

Believe me, every team has a player who's capable of winning a debatable foul, free-kick, or penalty. And every club is happy to accept a soft penalty when they get one but consistently outraged when it goes against them.

Calling out the opposition for 'cheating' when all clubs have players capable of the same offence is very hypocritical.

I've also lost count of the number of times I see strikers chase a ball into the corner with a defender in front of them. Part of the game was for the defender to quickly put the brakes on to ensure contact with their opponent and go down.

Refs give a foul for that every time. Is it cheating or diving? To me, it's part of the game.

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Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher assesses the key decisions in Celtic's 4-0 win at Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership

We don't have VAR in Scotland and we're unlikely to adopt this new technology for years to come. Given the very unconvincing effect it has had on the Premier League in England, perhaps it's no bad thing.

But very soon we'll be out of step with most countries if we don't seriously consider it.

I completely recognise that clubs are angry with the current system of retrospective action being taken for some incidents and confusion as to who decides what incident to look at.

Are Celtic and Rangers players held to a higher standard of behaviour because there are more cameras at their games? If so, that's not right.

If the clubs are serious about making the game as fair as possible, they should get together and lobby for positive change.

One final thought - if Scotland beat England at Wembley this summer in the Euros thanks to an act of simulation, I guarantee you won't hear a single Scot complaining.

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