BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Robbie Neilson has vowed to defend Jamie Walker to the hilt after the Hearts winger was issued with a notice of complaint for alleged simulation against Celtic – before attacking Hoops captain Scott Brown.
The 23-year-old plunged to the turf under a challenge from Kieran Tierney to win a penalty during Sunday’s powder-keg encounter, with replays appearing to show minimal contact.
Walker dusted himself off to convert the kick to level the scores, only for Scott Sinclair to climb from the bench to secure a 2-1 win for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
However, the fall-out from the clash in the capital has been extensive, with Walker last night issued with the fixed offer of a two-match ban for “simulation” by SFA compliance officer Tony McGlennan.
Hearts WILL contest the charge and the case will be heard at Hampden on Thursday afternoon, leaving Walker free to face St Johnstone in the Betfred Cup this evening.
Neilson said: “We will appeal because I believe from the footage which we have seen there is slight contact. There is contact, he goes down. From our perspective it’s up to the referee to make a decision.
“We will 100 per cent stand by Jamie. I think it’s only right. If you go for a tackle in the box and miss the ball and there is any contact on the player then the player’s momentum is broken and he has to go down. It’s a penalty.
“Is there any point where there is light between the players? There is a crossing at high speed, that is all it takes.
“I’m sure if it was a Celtic player and there is contact in the box and he goes down then that’s a penalty too.”
Neilson pointedly drew comparisons with the SFA’s failure to ban John Guidetti when the Sweden international won a contentious penalty at Tynecastle in November 2014.
The big striker plunged to the turf under a challenge from Brad McKay and converted the subsequent spot-kick in a 4-0 win – but avoided a suspension by claiming he “slipped” in the box.
Neilson continued: “We looked at the same incident in the same corner two years ago, with [John] Guidetti. He said he slipped and Guidetti didn’t get banned. Well, there is contact on Walker this time, he goes down – it’s a penalty kick.
“I would be very disappointed if he is banned because if they are going to process a charge then it is being done on the strength of people talking on the TV and in the press.
“The player said there was contact and all the cameras they look at can’t prove otherwise.”
A furious Brown exchanged words with Walker in the media room immediately after the contest, before going on to tell the assembled press that the youngster was a “cheat”.
That irked Neilson, who is adamant Walker is no diver and firmly believes it is out of order for one professional to level that sort of accusation at another.
He added: “Of course we are disappointed with Scott’s comments. I don’t think it’s right to come out and make comments on other footballers. A referee comes out and make a decision and, if you have something to say, then say it privately.”