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Ex-Celtic star Joe Miller sets record straight on claims of sectarian abuse at Belfast ground

By Ivan Little

Former Celtic star Joe Miller has reignited the controversy over allegations that he and his team-mates were subjected to sectarian abuse during a visit to Linfield's Windsor Park stadium in the 1990s, when laser pens were also supposedly shone at them during a friendly game.

Miller has now claimed that he never mentioned Linfield in an interview with a Scottish newspaper and that the incidents actually happened at the home of their Belfast rivals, Glentoran.

Miller was in the eye of a storm over claims attributed to him before Celtic's trip to play Linfield in a UEFA Champions League qualifying game which was re-scheduled from its original date over the Twelfth of July.

Celtic refused to take up their allocation of tickets for the match, citing safety concerns over their supporters, although a number of their fans subsequently did get into the game, which ended in a 2-0 win for the Glasgow side.

Linfield were fined by UEFA for missile-throwing by their supporters and a pitch invasion by fans, while Celtic's Leigh Griffiths was banned for a match for 'provoking spectators' by tying a green and white scarf to a Windsor Park goalpost. Before the game, Joe Miller was quoted in a Scottish newspaper as saying that he was subjected to sectarian abuse outside a pub near Windsor Park during a pre-season trip to Belfast with Aberdeen 25 years ago and he also said "there were red dots on us for the whole 90 minutes".

However, after Linfield protested that they'd never played Aberdeen, Miller apparently retracted his claims and apologised, saying that he'd got the grounds "mixed up".

He also said it wasn't a friendly game, but a training match with no official result. However, Miller has now given a fresh account of what happened.

In a weekend interview which is widely available on the internet in a podcast by CQN (Celtic Quick News) he denies ever having named Linfield or Windsor Park. And in the chat, recorded at an event called Celtic AM in a Glasgow pub, Miller can be heard saying that the story originated after a charity football launch in June, when he gave a reporter a lift in his car.

"I said the last time I played there (in Northern Ireland) I was with Aberdeen. I never mentioned Linfield and I never mentioned who it was or anything like that. I just told him about a couple of incidents."

Miller adds: "The last time I was there in Belfast I said we were having this training session and Roy Aitken, Tommy Craig, Derek Whyte and myself were there. I said we came out of the training ground, and everybody spilled out of this pub, and they were hurling abuse at big Roy, myself and everybody.

"We went and played this practice match - sorry a pre-season game - and I said there were laser pens on me."

Miller says Roy Aitken told him to keep on the move because "it was harder to hit a moving target". Miller says all hell broke loose after the newspaper report appeared and it was made out that it was Linfield he was talking about and he adds that "the internet terrorists all went a*****t".

Miller says he didn't want journalists to lose their jobs, so he agreed that an apology should be printed from him.

He adds: "I said I've upset many of them in my lifetime. Another couple of thousand isn't going to make any difference."

In response to Linfield's assertions that they'd never played Aberdeen, Miller insists in the Celtic AM interview: "I never actually said I played there. In fact it was at Glentoran - that was where the game was."

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