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Linfield v Celtic: Let's not go back to bad old days, says Blues boss ahead of Windsor clash

By Steven Beacom

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern has stressed that Friday's Champions League clash with Celtic must pass off peacefully to show the world how Northern Ireland society has moved on.

McGivern also revealed that Linfield would have been happy to accommodate Celtic supporters and felt sorry for the thousands of away fans who won't be able to attend the first leg, second qualifying round tie at Windsor Park.

The Glasgow club announced last month they would not be taking up their allocation of away tickets for the trip to Belfast.

The game was originally due to be played on July 11 or 12 but was moved to July 14 with a 5pm kick-off due to security fears.

A major police operation will be in place on Friday with plans to deal with any Celtic fans who purchase tickets and make it into the ground.

In a press conference yesterday, McGivern appealed to Linfield fans to "protect the good name of the club and not drag it back to the past" when the Blues were punished by Uefa and had to play European games away from Windsor.

He said: "We are looking forward to two games of football but there are, of course, bigger implications.

"Northern Ireland as a society has moved on a lot in the past few years and, for the Celtic game, we want Belfast and the stadium showcased.

"It's vital both legs pass off peacefully. It's vital for this club because we have had difficulties in the past in Europe.

"We've been banned (in the past) from playing at Windsor Park and, although I don't want to drag up things from the past, we have also had a Uefa fine a few years ago. It's crucial for this club that we can protect the good name of this club.

"We have been working very closely with supporters' clubs and we will continue to do that this week.

"We want our fans to be loud and proud and back the club with Linfield songs but we don't want dragged back to the bad old days.

"Right from the draw the two clubs have built up a good relationship and if this can pass off well it will say a lot about where we are now in Northern Ireland."

With security operations and officially no Celtic fans in the ground, the capacity is expected to be 10,500 on Friday. Linfield have been given 1,500 tickets for the Parkhead return on July 19.

McGivern continued: "We believe we could have managed it, working with all the relevant authorities and with the PSNI, to bring a number of Celtic fans to the ground and have it well segregated and were happy to do that.

"We're bringing 1,500 fans to Celtic Park and I wouldn't want to be going to that game without our supporters. I don't think I would have gone personally, I couldn't have lived with that decision.

"It's a big occasion for everyone at the club. Celtic have their own reasons, which we won't go into, but we certainly would have accommodated them inside this ground.

"The arrangements in place for the one part of the ground where tickets are on public sale - the North Stand - are strict.

"You can't buy in a Ticketmaster outlet, you have to do it online, you have to use a card and give your full address and postcode and there will be a maximum of four per person and it's allocated seats.

"The police will have intelligence about who is buying tickets and where they are sitting.

"Ticket sales close at 2pm on Thursday and the police will have time to have a plan in place for those Celtic fans who go against the wishes of their club and come to the game.

"I won't get into operational matters but the police are working with us and they have a robust plan in place and believe they can deal with any situation.

"I'd be amazed if there weren't any Celtic fans inside the ground but we just don't know at this stage. I do feel sorry for genuine Celtic supporters."

Belfast Telegraph


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