As the Glasgow Derby fixture concludes for another season, Martin O’Neill has urged Rangers and Celtic to discuss increasing away supporters.
Rangers firmly threw the dummy out the pram back in May 2018. Clearly tired of getting battered by Celtic on their own park, they decided to slash the Hoops’ Ibrox allocation from around 6,000 to 800. At the time, they laughably tried to claim that this was down to increased demand for season tickets [The Scotsman].
Celtic then returned the favour. They cut Rangers’ Parkhead numbers to the same figure, and went on to criticise the Ibrox club for how they handled the situation [BBC].
This season there have been no fans in the stadiums whatsoever. However, as we hope for a gradual return to full stadiums at some point next term, O’Neill urged both clubs to get their respective away allocations back to what it once was.
Speaking on Graham Spiers’ Press Box podcast, O’Neill said: “I was up at the game recently at Celtic Park behind closed doors and there was obviously no atmosphere because of the pandemic. I’m hoping that, when the fans do come back to football, that Celtic and Rangers can agree that they can have their quota of [away] fans back again.
“When I was there, and you went to Ibrox, you felt you had some company, that you weren’t alone when you saw the Celtic fans. And I’m sure Rangers felt exactly the same when they could fill one end of Celtic Park.
“There is the cauldron of it, there is religion in there, you can throw everything into the mix. You can use all sorts of adjectives to describe these games but there is something magical about them. There is an intensity that just does not exist anywhere else.”
Glasgow Derby needs an increase in away fans; Martin O’Neill spot on
There’s 100% something missing from the Glasgow derby these days, and I’m not talking about since Covid hit either.
This all came from Rangers – let’s get that straight first and foremost. Floundering in derby after derby, they tried to pull off a move that they knew their supporters would lap up. And lap up they did. At the time, it was their only way of getting one over on Celtic, but it came across petty and spiteful.
Celtic did the right thing in realiating. It wouldn’t have been right to allow thousands of Rangers fans into Parkhead when Celtic were being treated so poorly in Govan.
But there’s a general consensus that it’s taken something away from the fixture. These days, visiting supporters just can’t be heard during the derby matches with the new allocation. They’re drowned out far too easily, and it takes something major away from the occasion.
Hearing the two sets of supporters going at it is what helps to build up that intense atmosphere O’Neill talks about. Without it, we’re simply left with a passionate home crowd roaring whilst the away support might as well not be there. It hasn’t made the game more of a spectacle, and if anything has taken something massive away from it.
There are no signs that either club will be getting themselves back around the table anytime soon. However, hopefully in time, this ridiculous spat can finally be erased and we get the full quota of away fans back for the derby games.