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Rodgers sad Celtic fans missing Linfield tie

Club refused its tickets for Windsor over safety fears

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers has outlined his disappointment for Northern Ireland as a nation that thousands of Celtic supporters will miss tonight's Champions League clash against Linfield at Windsor Park.

Last month the Glasgow giants announced they would not be accepting their allocation of away tickets due to security fears.

It was a decision that annoyed many Hoops fans, and while Carnlough native Rodgers understands the club's stance, he did make the point that in the "new Northern Ireland" it was a pity that both sets of supporters would not be inside Windsor delivering a cracking atmosphere.

Rodgers also addressed the point about any Celtic supporters buying tickets which went on general sale, insisting that if that was the case, they would not cause any trouble.

It is understood that the PSNI has plans to deal with such a scenario, with one being the possibility that Celtic supporters could be relocated in the empty Kop end of the stadium.

Delighted to be home in Northern Ireland, Rodgers spoke at the Culloden Hotel on the eve of tonight's first leg, second round qualifier, which was switched to July 14 with a 5pm kick-off after being originally scheduled to take place on July 11 or 12.

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He said: "I'm disappointed for the (Celtic) supporters in Northern Ireland, who travel over religiously every week and travel all over the world watching the team. There is now a game on their doorstep and they can't make it.

"I'm also disappointed for us as a nation. This is a different Northern Ireland. I know it's the marching season and all that sort of stuff, but this is a new Northern Ireland and should have been a place where the Celtic supporters could come in.

"It would be a passionate game, but that's what you want. Linfield supporters and Celtic supporters are both passionate. That creates a great game because football is about two sets of supporters. I'm saddened for Belfast, us and Northern Ireland that our supporters can't be there.

"Celtic are a club that lots of teams want to have as their testimonial game. Why? Because supporters travel in great numbers and how they behave when they go to those grounds.

"It is unfortunate they are not going to be here. The football club haven't been able to have assurances for their safety which is sad for me. Coming back to Northern Ireland and a new Northern Ireland and not to be able to ensure the supporters' safety is guarded, that is a problem for me. Celtic as a football club protect their supporters and it was deemed for whatever reason it would maybe be unsafe to travel or be there, so of course steps have been put in place." Rodgers said he relished taking his team to Windsor Park and meeting up again with friend and Linfield boss David Healy.

Northern Ireland record goalscorer Healy has told Linfield supporters to "enjoy the game in a spirit of true sportsmanship".

The Linfield manager said: "We will need our supporters to get behind the players in the right manner. We will need patience and we will need positive encouragement in abundance.

"It's my honour and privilege to welcome Brendan Rodgers and his Celtic team to Windsor Park."

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