The disgraceful actions of some so-called football supporters in recent weeks left me cold and numb.
I can’t comprehend what goes through a person’s mind when they feel it is acceptable to run on to a pitch and assault a player.
Even thinking about it now, one week on, from seeing Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish being punched in the face by Birmingham City follower Paul Mitchell was one of the most-shocking acts of hooliganism and thuggery I’ve ever seen from an individual in a stadium.
Thankfully, City, the police and the Courts dealt with it swiftly and he was put behind bars for 14 weeks.
Should his custodial sentence have been longer? Perhaps. We’ll see if this acts as a deterrent to others in future. Let’s hope so.
Certainly, going to prison, naming and shaming and public humiliation is only right.
It came on the back of Rangers captain James Tavernier being confronted by a Hibs follower on the pitch the previous Friday evening. A suspect was arrested and is now awaiting a court appearance.
Thankfully, neither Grealish or Tavernier reacted. But could we have faulted them if they retaliated and stood up for themselves?
I’m told that had they acted in self-defence then the referee, by the letter of the law, would have had to have sent them off. Really? That would be so wrong.
I mean, I’m not advocating violence in any shape or form, but players must not feel they should just stand there if they feel they are in danger of being battered.
There needs to be clear guidelines set out on this and red-carding players should not be on the agenda. They should be made aware of the boundaries in any “Rule Of Engagement”.
What is also just as important, is that any punishments for clubs does not include docking them points. Clubs cannot be held responsible for the actions of one or two mindless idiots.
Deducting points would be 100% wrong and would open up a whole new can of worms. It would throw the game into chaos, to the point of no return.
Let’s take a scenario where a game is on and one of the teams needs a win to secure the title or avoid relegation. But another team, one that is not playing in that game, needs the opposite result for their benefit.
What’s to stop someone from doing something that would cost the team what they need in order to benefit his own club?
I’m also not in favour of shutting down stadiums. Again, why should 99% of the good football supporters be punished by not being able to see their team in action.
That said, we do need to find ways to tackle this ever-growing problem head-on. And I agree there are no easy answers and certainly no magic wand available.
I believe the SFA and SPFL are working closely at the moment, and plan to announce new stricter and tougher measures to deal with hooliganism and sectarianism.
I’m all for that and I hope they show leadership in this matter, and that their plans have proper substance.
It’s important that they get this right and do not leave themselves open to criticism.
I hope that they have spoken to different experts out there and not just kept it to opinion and guidance from within their own four walls.
This is a critical moment for Scottish football and they have to get it right. I’d rather they waited a wee bit longer in order to get it spot on, instead of rushing out with a statement because they feel under pressure to be seen to be doing something.
But we also have to be careful that we don’t alienate the true football fans.
We need to tackle the thugs, but we must also safeguard the supporter experience for the decent fans.
Of course, from this week on, the focus will switch to the international football fans and we all want to see the home nations behave and enjoy the football. I’m confident they all will.
The Tartan Army will be on the road to see Alex McLeish and his players take on Kazakhstan and San Marino in the opening games of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
It’s vital to get off to a good start and we’d all love to finish the week off with maximum points.
But we mustn’t underestimate either opponent. I wouldn’t be overly disappointed if we came away with four points from six. Kazakhstan will not be easy and the travelling and time difference are factors.
The aim is to finish is second place to guarantee qualification and we are hopeful at this point that it can be achieved.
Alex will put trust in his players and it’s unfortunate that we have lost Allan McGregor to retirement and Steven Naismith and Steven Fletcher to injury.
We are not overflowing with options in an attacking sense, but we do have plenty to choose form in midfield and defence.
It’s up to Alex to find a formation – and a way to score goals – and I have every confidence in him and his squad.
I wish them well.