Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Celtic game no glamour tie, says Lawlor

Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor has dismissed any talk of tonight's visit of Celtic to Solitude as being a "glamour game".

The Champions League second round qualifier doesn't need any extra hype to generate interest – in fact the demand for tickets was so great that supporters camped outside the north Belfast venue overnight to secure their place inside the ground come the big kick-off.

It was the kind of scramble for tickets more associated with Wimbledon where Andy Murray wrote his name in the history books.

And it would be the proudest moment in Cliftonville's history if they could knock Neil Lennon's Hoops out of the Champions League.

Do not be mistaken – that is exactly the Reds' objective and pleasantries will be booted into touch when the first whistle sounds.

There will be an electric atmosphere in the ground with a bumper 5,000 crowd looking on and hundreds of thousands more watching on Sky Television.

But if there was ever a time for Breslin's men to 'play the game and not the occasion' it is tonight and Lawlor is backing the home side to show their true colours in the face of a formidable foe.

"I actually think our draw has put a bit of life back into the Champions League qualifiers," said Lawlor. "People maybe thought the tournament had lost a bit of flavour at this stage – and the potential for a giant-killing. But now they may be looking at this tie and thinking 'hold on, maybe it hasn't'.

"It's really vital to us that this isn't regarded as a 'glamour friendly' because it's far from that. It'll be a really difficult game for us but we'd like to think we can cause them a few problems.

"The important thing is we're at home first and we want to keep the tie alive going to Scotland for the second-leg. That's our first objective and hopefully we can achieve that.

"We know our boys will give 100% and that's all we can ask of them. Listen, Celtic are a fantastic side – head and shoulders above us. But sometimes in football, you just never know."

The draw will certainly please the Solitude bean counters.

Television cash and gate receipts will go towards making the north Belfast venue a more enticing environment for families but Irish League fans will know that balancing the books is a constant challenge.

"Financially, it's not life-changing money for us," added Lawlor.

"The game will bring in good income for us but we've had to spend a lot to keep the match at Solitude.

"That has taken a large chunk of it away. It has allowed us to do a bit of work on the ground, which is welcome.

"But the tie won't necessarily keep the club going for a few years, or anything like that."

* Cliftonville fans still looking tickets for tonight's game can purchase some this morning.

Celtic have returned some tickets to the club and these will be on sale from Sean Graham Bookmakers on King Street at 10am, priced £25. They will be sold on a first come, first served basis and be limited to a maximum of two per person. Turnstiles tonight will open at 6pm.

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