'We get told to bugger off' - Hibs ace reveals how refs deal with VAR queries

Socceroos star was on the scoresheet against Aberdeen - in another game marred by video review controversies
Don't mention the VAR ... Socceroos star Martin Boyle knows not to seek explanations over video review system.Don't mention the VAR ... Socceroos star Martin Boyle knows not to seek explanations over video review system.
Don't mention the VAR ... Socceroos star Martin Boyle knows not to seek explanations over video review system.

In fairness to Scotland’s football referees, patiently explaining every VAR decision to players – an established part of rugby’s TMO etiquette, as the egg chasers never tire of pointing out – might not help matters. Not least because even the most clear and obvious decision would be unlikely to prompt a polite response of: “Thank you, sir. Let’s play on lads …”

Still, if you ever felt a little in the dark about some of the mysterious incidents subjected to review or clear-cut offences ignored, take heart. Because the footballers out on the pitch, the guys most affected by the judgement of an official apparently using frame-by-frame analysis to seek out and destroy any hint of joy, are equally oblivious to the decision-making process.

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Asked if players ever received an explanation from the officials, Hibs star Martin Boyle laughed as he revealed: “Nah. Nothing. We just get told to bugger off!

“I don’t know what they’re speaking about. It’s just mental. But, if the right calls are being made, fair play. The game could play on, things are called back, players are confused. If the right calls are being made, fair play. If mistakes are still creeping in, it’s not ideal.”

Hibs left Pittodrie nursing a serious grievance over Video Assistant Referee David Dickinson’s refusal to award a penalty for a fairly blatant handball by Nicky Devlin in yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Aberdeen. Although they were at least grateful to Dickinson for overturning the incorrect offside flag that would have denied Emiliano Marcondes an equaliser, in pre-VAR days.

Expanding on what players are going through out on the pitch, beyond trying to stay warm and limber, when often lengthy reviews are taking place, Boyle said: “I’m just looking around, to be honest. The referee just goes off, he’s pointing at his ear. We don’t really know what’s going on.

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“I mean, I know they’re checking multiple things that happened before the incident. There’s a lot going on. And it adds up to 10 minutes of injury time, because we’ve been waiting around for five minutes at a time.

“Obviously the goal being awarded is great. We get the goal. If they make the right call, happy days. The penalty’s been mentioned a few times. I’ve not actually seen it, and it all happened so quick. If the referee hasn’t gone to VAR, there is nothing we can do, if they don’t see it in real time.

“I had no idea what was going on half the time. It’s just so stop-start, a bit chaotic. The stoppages are not ideal for anyone, especially when you have 10 minutes at the end. If they’ve made the right call, then happy days. But there’s nothing we can do. We just have to get on with it.”

Boyle, looking back to his best since returning from Asian Cup duty with the Socceroos and being restored to his favoured starting position on the right wing for Hibs, showed great pace, skill and composure to open the scoring in the Granite City. Then took a comedy dive – a response to some of the stick he’s received on social media – as part of his celebration.

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It was quite the bold move from a player who, back in November, famously injured himself doing a knee slide in celebration of a Viaplay Cup semi-final goal against the Dons … only to see his effort disallowed after a – yes, you’ve guessed it – VAR review. He’s nothing if not cheeky, right?

“I was a wee bit worried, yeah,” he said, when asked if he’d feared a repeat of that Hampden heartache. “Obviously, I did my celebration and then thought: ‘Oh, not again.’ But I was hoping I got it right. I didn’t want any more mistakes. So I just hoped I’d got it right and they’d made the right call this time. I’m happy to be contributing to goals again.

“My celebration? If you had seen my Twitter this week, you will have seen that I was getting a bit of abuse. But I like that interaction with the fans. It’s a bit of banter, at the end of the day. It just wasn’t funny when we then concede a couple of minutes later.

“The boys all showed great character to come back. And I’m happy to be contributing to the team again. But, overall, we know we need to start winning games.

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“I would probably say it’s a good point, on reflection. They had chances, David Marshall had to go off, JoJo Wollacott made a couple of good saves, there were VAR decisions … it’s all a bit up in the air. The pitch wasn’t the best. But there are no excuses.

“I thought we scored two great goals. But, if we defend like that, we are going to concede goals. There’s nothing we can do now but take the point and prepare for Dundee next weekend.”

Five points adrift of the top six, Hibs – boasting far more strength in depth than they had a month ago – can’t rely on draws to get them into the top half. Not with only eight games remaining before the split.

Boyle agreed: “You’re right. I said it last week, as well. We need to start winning games. We can’t afford to be dropping many more points. We’ve got a good game next weekend to hopefully start winning.

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“I think the squad is stronger with everyone back from international duty – and we’ve made signings. I feel like the manager has a headache now. The squad depth is there. At the moment, the boys are training well, keeping everyone on their toes – if you’re not performing, someone will take that opportunity.

“I feel like the substitutes have made a real impact over the last few games so they’re obviously itching to get that starting jersey. Training will be tough again this week, with all the boys scrapping for that place.”

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