Belfast Telegraph

Celtic fans' absence a shame for Linfield and new Northern Ireland, says Brendan Rodgers

Safety at Windsor not assured... and that's sad for me in new Northern Ireland, says all-conquering Hoops boss

By Jonathan Bell

Celtic manager and Carnlough native Brendan Rodgers described as "sad" the absence of his side's fans for the glamour Champions League tie at Windsor against Linfield.

The Parkhead chief said it was a shame for both Linfield and the "new Northern Ireland" after, he claimed, assurances on safety could not be given for the visiting team's safety.

Celtic chose not to take up their allocation of tickets for away supporters for the game on Friday night. There had been fears over the scheduling of the fixture on the week of the Twelfth. Originally it had been scheduled for either the Eleventh Night or the Twelfth itself.

The matter led to a Twitter row between the Belfast club and the PSNI.

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Speaking on Thursday evening ahead of the game, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers said: "This is a game that the football club haven't been able to have assurances for the safety of their fans, which is sad for me.

"Coming back to Northern Ireland, and a new Northern Ireland, being not able in some way to ensure supporters' safety is guarded, is a problem for me."

Rodgers said that he was looking forward to the game and delighted to be home. He said the atmosphere would be "strange" without the famous travelling Celtic support.

The only sadness for me, wherever I have been an travelled in this last year, the game have been great but the supporters have been brilliant.

"In all fairness my players have played in a lot of environments and lots of big pressure games and they are well used to it. But it is disappointing the supporters are not there.

"Wherever they travel around the world the supporters are renowned for travelling in big numbers and behaving themselves.

"It is a shame for Linfield and Northern Ireland. Football is loved in this country and to have the two sets of supporters there would have been fantastic.

"Celtic as a football club protects its supporters and it was deemed for whatever reason that it would maybe be unsafe to travel or be there then of course there has been steps put in place.

"For us it's about the football, focus on that and go back to Glasgow next week where it will be packed with 60,000."

The Antrim man also praised opposite number, Linfield boss David Healy.

"He had an amazing season last year and I watched the games and feel it is the start of a really successful managerial career for him."

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