Martin O’Neill and Alex McLeish want increase in away fans at Old Firm derbies
Former Old Firm rivals Martin O’Neill and Alex McLeish are united in their disappointment over the lack of away supporters at games between Celtic and Rangers.
Former Celtic boss O’Neill believes the Glasgow derby has lost something from the development after describing the past atmosphere as “combative and brilliant”.
McLeish also feels the lack of away fans could even hamper the home team.
Both clubs formerly handed about 7,500 tickets to their rivals until Rangers announced in May 2018 that they were slashing that allocation to about 10 per cent of that figure. Inevitably, Celtic immediately followed suit.
Celtic are believed to be in favour of a return to the original allocation but neither club have taken away tickets for the final two league meetings between the sides this season amid concerns over the safety of small groups of away fans inside Ibrox and Celtic Park.
Speaking ahead of Celtic’s trip to Ibrox on Saturday, O’Neill said: “The thing I would miss most now is that there are no Celtic fans allowed into Ibrox and no Rangers fans allowed into Celtic.
“I think that really does take away from the atmosphere.
“My goalkeeping coach, Seamus McDonagh, brought some friends and his grandchild up to the game here, I got him some tickets for the 3-2 game (at Celtic Park). His grandchild was blown away by the atmosphere and Seamus, who hadn’t been up for a while, thought it was fantastic.
“I said to Seamus, it genuinely doesn’t compare to the atmosphere when the opposition are in. It’s really something. I mean the Rangers goal was virtual silence.
“I thought there was something really combative and brilliant about the fans being in.
“You felt kind of consolation that you had Celtic fans at Ibrox.
“It’s a shame. Honestly, there’s definitely something missing from that. You miss it. The games were fantastic. I’m not saying I always looked forward to them but they were fantastic.
“The games are still special but they were extra special when the away fans were in.
“It would be nice if the clubs sat down and organised something. Losing the away fans does take something away from the game.”
McLeish, who spent most of his Ibrox reign up against O’Neill, agreed with his former opponent.
“You get inspiration from both sets of fans,” the former Rangers manager said.
“If you’re getting ribbed by the opposition fans then it inspired you to do a wee bit more for yourself.
“It seems bizarre that there won’t be opposition fans. It’s a shame.
“I never thought I’d see that happening but it’s the way the world has evolved. Social networks are quite vitriolic at times as well. It’s something I could just never foresee.”