Linfield chairman admits he doesn't want Celtic in Champions League qualifier

By David Walton

June 16, 2019

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern has admitted that he doesn’t want to draw Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers.

The Blues and the Hoops could reunite once again in the first qualifying round of the Champions League this season. It comes after their previous meeting two years ago – a tie in which Celtic won 6-0 on aggregate.

Despite the routine success, it was also a tie marred by crowd trouble. Buckfast bottles were thrown at Leigh Griffiths by the home fans, in what was a despicable showing by a fair meaty section of the Linfield supporters in Northern Ireland.

Leigh Griffiths was the target of abuse by the Linfield supporters two years ago (David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The crowd also reacted angrily to Griffiths tying a Celtic scarf to their Windsor Park goalpost too. And, speaking ahead of the draw in two days’ time, Linfield chairman McGivern isn’t getting giddy about a potential rematch. Speaking in the Daily Record via Football Scotland, this is what he had to say:

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“I think it’s a tie neither club would really want. We had it two years ago. It was a fantastic experience for us but would I want it again so soon? Probably not in terms of what comes with the non-footballing issues.

“Maybe a few years down the line we could play Celtic again but it is too soon after the last time. If it happens we’ll get on with it and what we learned from that tie will help us plan for this one, but it’s not one I would be looking for.

“It would be slightly easier to organise (than 2017). We would have a plan from the outset about how we would handle it. Hopefully the whole thing about Celtic fans not attending wouldn’t be an issue this time.”

A lack of confidence in his own supporters

McGivern could be forgiven for not having total faith in his own supporters to play nice. Many of them simply can’t stand Celtic, and for reasons outside of football too. They were generally far too aggressive at Windsor Park back in 2017, and Linfield will need to try and prepare for that better should we be drawn with them.

Linfield fans struggled to take this moment from Leigh Griffiths (David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

For those that don’t remember, Celtic actually initially declined to take any tickets for the clash in Northern Ireland too. It was Linfield who then decided to make a section for away supporters regardless. Such is the crowd trouble that was anticipated two years ago, Celtic were worried.

But in truth, this would actually be the best draw we could get from a footballing perspective. It’s the shortest possible journey, and would allow us to play another familiar, British side in what should be a routine tie.

Riot police was needed at Windsor Park back in 2017 (David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

For players who have just come off a long campaign such as Callum McGregor, who played 69 times for club and country, he would likely appreciate the short hop over to Northern Ireland.

Of course, the addition of Neil Lennon into any Linfield-Celtic clash could also prove volatile too. So it’s easy to see where McGivern is coming from in any case.