“It’s completely changed the game,” Liam Scales

Liam Scales spoke to the media at Lennoxtown yesterday afternoon ahead of the Scottish Cup quarter final tie against Livingston at Celtic Park tomorrow afternoon. The Irish defender spoke about the Scottish Cup challenge, he looked back at the VAR controversies at the weekend and paid a nice tribute to Liel Abada who left the club this week. Here’s everything that was said at Liam Scales’ media conference…

Q: How are the players feeling ahead of this tie?

Liam Scales: “We’re looking forward to it. We know it’s a cup game and it’s coming to the end of the competition so we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully we can put in a good performance and that’ll take us through to the semi-final.”

Q: Does the determination increase the closer you get to Hampden?

Liam Scales: “Definitely. It’s the business end of the season. We’ve had a good week working on our game for the weekend. We’re confident going into it and we want to progress to the next round.”

Liam Scales at full time during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Hearts at Celtic Park on December 16, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: Is it all about resetting after the disappointment last week?

Liam Scales: “100 per cent. It was a disappointing result. Obviously things didn’t go our way and it was taken out of our hands a little bit. It’s a different competition so it’s a fresh mindset completely going into it now.”

Q: Do you expect Livingston to upon up a bit more, given it’s a cup game?

Liam Scales: “Potentially, but I think they’ll also probably be a bit cautious. They’ll try and stay in the game, which we’ll have to try and break down. They’ll want to keep going for as long as they can.”

Q: You said things were taken out of your hands last week. There was a penalty awarded against your team. Are the players clear on what constitutes a hand ball?

Liam Scales: “Some might be. I’m not, to be honest. It surprised me. Watching it back especially, no one on the pitch even knew it had happened. Tomoki (Iwata) didn’t even know until half-time that it was given against him. It might have even been given against Ali (Johnston). I’m not sure myself, but it was surprising. That’s football.”

Q: Is it something you talk about in training, as defenders? Do you have to watch what you’re doing with your hands behind your back when you jump?

Liam Scales: “I take that arms behind the back approach when you’re blocking shots or pressing an opponent, because you know if they shoot and it’s going towards the goal and it hits your hand or arm, then it’s a hand ball. Physically, it’s difficult to jump without using your arms to get yourself up. When there’s contact involved between players, your limbs are pushed different ways and they react different. Sometimes it’s out of your control and it’s really hard to defend that naturally when these things are in your mind, but we just have to get on with it.”

Q: Is it something you’ve spoken about in training this week or have you drawn a line under it going forward?

Liam Scales: “No, it’s just one of those things. It’s not happened to us often, and probably won’t happen to us much more. It’s very rare that decision is given against you. We’ve worked on if we end up with 10 men, that sort of thing, which is more common than that.”

Q: In terms of the weekend, you’re one game away from Hampden. Have you played at Hampden before?

Liam Scales: “I’ve played at Hampden a couple of times before, yeah.”

Q: Was it for Celtic?

Liam Scales: “Yeah, I came on in the League Cup final two years ago, and I played there for Aberdeen in the cup semi-final last season.”

Q: What’s your memories of it? What do you make of it?

Liam Scales:  “It’s a great day out. It’s something different and the atmosphere is always good. It’s a big day, and the lead-up is better and bigger. It’s exciting, really.

Q: Looking back to last weekend. Are those the kinds of games that can be good learning experiences for the group. About how you deal with adversity when it comes along, regardless of what that may be?

Liam Scales: “Exactly. That’s what this week has been based on. Looking back on that game, the only thing we can do is accept that we’re down to 10 men and play a certain way to win with the 10 men. That’s what we’ve worked on, so we’ve learned a lot from it, definitely.”

Q: How difficult is that in a game to separate yourself from the decision and the task in hand. You might be annoyed at what’s happened, but you need to just forget about it in the moment?

Liam Scales: “It has to be gone straight away, and it’s focusing on the challenge now being a man down. We started well and we felt like we were on top then the sending off changed the way the game went. That’s football.”

Q: Is it even more difficult as players because there’s two stages, due to the on-field referee or VAR?

Liam Scales:“It’s completely changed the game. You’re constantly waiting, and every goal that’s scored you’re waiting to see if it’s been disallowed in the build-up, or every challenge you’re waiting to see if it’s been pulled back. You always have to be ready for the decision to be changed which is difficult at times.

Q: Alexandro Bernabei is away. Are you prepared to switch to left-back as cover if need be over the course of the season?

Liam Scales: “Yeah, if need be. 100 per cent, I played there before and I’ve played a lot of games this year so I’m physically in good condition. I can switch if needed.”

Q: Liel Abada is gone. How do you hope he is remembered for his time here?

Liam Scales: “Liel scored massive goals for the club. That’s what we remember him for. He scored some big goals and he was part of a treble-winning team. He’s left a good legacy for himself here, so we wish him all the best for his new challenge.”

Q: With Callum McGregor missing, is it just a greater onus for others to step up, given he’s such a presence in the middle of the park?

Liam Scales: “Callum is a brilliant leader, but we have other players in the team who can take the step up and lead us. Tomo is a top player, and although he might not speak as much as Cal, he leads by example on the pitch, so he’s a good step-in, really.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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