Gary Holt believes Scottish football became a ‘laughing stock’ during Storm Ciara

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COMMON SENSE prevailed in the richest league in the world when Manchester City and West Ham United succumbed to Storm Ciara.

Meanwhile, Scottish football made itself a laughing stock by allowing fixtures to go ahead amid gusting gales and relentless rain.

That is the view of Livingston head coach Gary Holt, who saw his side exit the Scottish Cup on Saturday courtesy of an ugly 1-0 defeat in Inverness.

He asserts the action on show was woeful, the conditions were enough to discourage fans from returning and described the return journey from the Highlands as akin to Livi’s terrifying aborted landing as they came back from Spain last month.

Never one to mince his words, Holt said: “We get battered from pillar to post as a country for our football but we are on the rise – in the playoffs with the national team and with Celtic and Rangers still in Europe.

“Now, we are the laughing stock of football again because of the weekend because of the videos of the games being played in that wind on social media.

“Look at Man City v West Ham in the Premier League in England: game off. That’s the best league in the world and they made that decision. Yet, we played every game. Did anyone actually enjoy watching them? I didn’t.

“We had to come back on a bus and it wasn’t fun. I thought that flight from La Manga was my scariest journey ever, well that coach from Inverness was just as bad!

“This is an expensive sport, with people travelling from all over the country, and if anyone took their kids to that game they’ll be saying ‘I’m not going back to that!’

“Are there things we could have done better on Saturday? Yes. Am I pissed off and angry we are out of the cup? Yes. But I’ve watched it back and, honestly, I can’t critique it. It wasn’t a game of football.”

While more rare than postponements due to waterlogged pitches or ice, it is not unprecedented for the wind to put pay to fixtures north of the border.

Indeed, Holt was the Falkirk boss when their Championship clash with Queen of the South in December 2013 was called off by referee Iain Brines.

“I stood there with Jim [McIntyre, Queens manager] and we said ‘this shouldn’t be on’. It was howling,” recalled Holt. “We were giggling at the state of the assistants trying to put the cones out.

“The referee [Brines] came over and told us to wait and see because people were coming in.

“But we both agreed that if it was unplayable, call it off. Let’s be sensible. We played 15 minutes and it was just stupid – and it got called off.”

Holt’s complaints echo those of Hamilton boss Brian Rice, who has urged the authorities to measure the wind and, should it reach a tipping point deemed excessive, postpone the fixture.

And the former Scotland international hopes this week will prove the catalyst for a serious discussion on the matter.

“Everyone knew the storm was coming – a proper storm – and the referees or somebody else needs to have a look at it,” he continued.

“If you go out for a warm-up and your cones are flying all over the place and the balls are rolling all over the shop, then it gives you an idea [the game is unplayable].”

The conditions are unlikely to be much more palatable in West Lothian on Wednesday evening when St Mirren visit Livi, forcing Holt to grudgingly adjust his approach.

“We’ll still try to do the right things – but the ‘right things’ might be the ugly stuff,” he added. “We might have to accept that it’s cold, ugly, wet, snowing, gale force wind – so do we say ‘let’s get them turned and play percentages’? Maybe. It’s a risk and reward thing.”

HOLT LANDS PREMIERSHIP MANAGER OF THE MONTH AWARD

Holt did not allow the weather to entirely rain on his parade as he collected the Premiership manager of the month award for January after guiding the Lions to three wins out of three.

“I’m just the captain that steers the ship,” he added. “I give the instructions, but it is the players who carry them out when they cross the white line.

“I try to tell the players: they are good players and are at a level because they deserve to be there, so go out and show it.”

 
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