Robbie Neilson, the Heart of Midlothian head coach, insists the club need to accept the two-game ban meted out to Jamie Walker for ‘simulation’, even though he is adamant that the appeal panel’s ruling is flawed.
Scottish FA compliance officer Tony McGlennan’s decision to charge midfielder Walker with a breach of Rule 201 (committed an act of simulation in that you did pretend that you were fouled) was upheld at a Hampden hearing on Thursday.
The offence occurred last Sunday when Walker earned and converted a penalty in the 2-1 defeat to Celtic after falling in the box under a challenge from Hoops defender Kieran Tierney.
Neilson, who appeared at Hampden in person alongside Walker and club director of football Craig Levein, is convinced that there was contact between the players, and insists the ruling was based on ‘opinions’ rather than ‘facts’.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said Neilson, who will now be without the influential Walker for today’s Ladbrokes Premiership meeting at Aberdeen and next weekend’s visit of Inverness.
“We thought we had a good case.
“We spoke to Jamie and he said there was contact and we put it forward.
“But it was the opinion of three guys on the panel, so it was down to their opinion on it. It’s not down to facts or anything anybody says, it’s what they think at that moment in time.
“The reason we went along to the hearing was Jamie said there was contact.
“We looked at the video and we believed there was contact,.
“But the people on the panel decided there wasn’t contact, so that’s it.
“It was a fair hearing but that’s the way it goes. We have to accept it, we just need to move on.
“It’s a very grey area, shall we say. We had it two years ago with an opposition player (Celtic striker John Guidetti) here that went down on a slip and got a penalty. There was no contact.
“We’re disappointed but we need to move on, Jamie will be a big miss for us in the next two games but it will give him a chance to get a rest.”
Even though Hearts consider that Walker did not do anything untoward, the 21-year-old has inevitably become a marked man in the wake of the attention the incident has attracted, not to mention Celtic captain Scott Brown’s ‘cheat’ remark.
Walker was jeered by St Johnstone supporters in Wednesday’s 3-2 Betfred Cup defeat but Neilson’s insists the ruling should not influence referees when it comes to future games.
He added: “It shouldn’t feature in the minds of officials, they go into a game and judge the there and then. It shouldn’t be hanging there so I don’t expect it to be.”
Neilson, meanwhile, insists it is up to the Scottish FA to decide whether Celtic captain Brown should be penalised for branding Walker a ‘cheat’ after the game.
He added: “I’m not going to get involved in it. The club is not going to get involved in it. It’s up to the SFA if they’re going to do anything.
“Would I be disappointed if one of my players said that? Yeah, it would then be up to the SFA to speak to them about it.
“I’m not going to comment on another player. I said my piece after the game on Sunday. I’m not getting drawn into what else was said.”