This weekend is going to be great. When the teams walk onto the turf at Celtic Park for the match the atmosphere will be electric. It will be loud, it will be passionate and it will give our players every bit of encouragement that they need.
Celtic Park will be intimating without being hateful. It will celebratory not supremacist.
When the two teams walk onto the field at Ibrox the atmosphere will be very, very different. The malevolence will palpable. You will be able to taste it in the air, and especially if our club has won the previous two encounters.
The singing will be vile. There will be the tension of barely suppressed violence in the air.
There are those who thing the absence of away fans will spoil the “spectacle.” This is largely nonsensical. What it will do is highlight the stark difference between two separate sets of fans and two different ways of following their clubs.
If you blindfolded a total novice and stuck him in the crowds at either game he or she would be able, immediately, to tell that the mood at one was markedly different than at the other, and this is not about one side being on top and the other playing catch up … that difference is found in the ethos, culture and identity of the two clubs.
I might be in the minority, but I would never have their fans back in Celtic Park again. It’s only when you experience the atmosphere without them that you realise the sheer toxicity they bring to the whole experience. I was stunned at how good the Parkhead game was that night in February last year when we pulverised them.
I had always thought that the game would have a different feel to it without them, but the actual raw experience of it exceeded my expectations by miles. And whilst I’ve sat in opposition stands to watch Celtic and been a “neutral” at three Edinburgh derbies, I will not, willingly, sit in the Ibrox crowd for any reason, far less for one of these games.
There are fans who don’t believe that games against the Ibrox club hit their heights without rival supporters.
I accept the view. People are entitled to that opinion.
But we should be hammering home the point that this feels like a different, a better, fixture without the hate surrounding it.
If there was a way to leech it out of their support they would be as welcome as any other fans … until then I honestly would prefer it if this was the “new normal.”