Linfield have hit out at press reports in the build-up to their potential Champions League clash with Celtic.
In a hard-hitting statement released late on Monday night, the club pulled no punches as they slammed "hysterical articles that have appeared in the Press over the last few days."
The club issued a response to what they called a "particularly regrettable piece" that "appeared in the Scottish Daily Record on Saturday June 24".
Former Celtic player Joe Miller is quoted giving his account of playing at Windsor Park for Aberdeen in 1995.
Miller was quoted recalling the "intimidating" atmosphere during the friendly and claiming that "there were red dots on us for the whole 90 minutes."
However, Linfield have hit back at his claims and have even said that the club "has no record of having played Aberdeen at Windsor Park or elsewhere in the entire decade Mr Miller refers to, whether in a friendly fixture, training game or otherwise. In fact, it appears that Linfield have never played against Aberdeen at all throughout our entire history."
Linfield also hit back at the claim of 'red dots' being aimed at players, saying that as Windsor Park is an enclosed ground, it is "unlikely that this could have come from outside the ground."
Further to that, the club continue by saying: "Given also that neither the then-RUC nor the British Army carried lasers fitted to their weapons as standard, and that in 1995 it would be some years before laser pointers became easily available and affordable to members of the public, one wonders where, exactly, these red dots may have appeared from in this match that didn’t actually happen."
The club then conclude that the account of events is "demonstrably untrue" and confirm that the club has "instructed solicitors to write to Mr Miller and the Daily Record accordingly."
In the Daily Record article, Joe Miller recalls an event outside a local pub, which Linfield also question, and goes on to back Celtic's stance not to accept their allocation of tickets for the potential fixture on July 14.
“Roy, myself, big Derek Whyte and Tommy Craig were walking along the road and Roy was carrying the balls," Miller is quoted as saying. "They all flooded out of a pub at the top of the street, so we just continued walking while they were all shouting and bawling at us.
“So it can be intimidating and the timing of when the game goes ahead is a difficult one. It would probably be better for everybody’s safety to hold the tickets back.
“That will ensure everybody gets through this unscathed. You don’t want trouble or any bother, no matter what it’s over.
“You’ve got to see the club’s point of view. There are elements there so it could be a powderkeg or it might be a damp squib. You don’t know, you just have to see how it goes.”
The Daily Record have been contacted for a response.
Since last Monday’s Champions League draw, there has been considerable press hyperbole surrounding a possible Second Round tie between Linfield and Celtic. Aside from making some contingency arrangements for this possible game, the Club’s stated position is that our utmost concentration must be on our First Round tie against La Fiorita of San Marino. To do anything other than this would be to disrespect our opponents whom we look forward to welcoming to Windsor Park on Wednesday evening. The Club is providing every assistance to David Healy, his staff and the first team squad in the preparation for these vitally important games.
Linfield feel that we must, however, issue a public response to some of the more hysterical articles that have appeared in the press over the last few days. Even in this era of “fake news” and slashed media budgets, one would have not thought it beyond the capabilities of most reporters to perform some basic fact-checking before sending an article to the presses.
A particularly regrettable piece appeared in the Scottish Daily Record on Saturday 24th June, wherein the former Celtic footballer Joe Miller recalled a friendly match he had apparently taken part in against Linfield at Windsor Park whilst he was on the books of Aberdeen. The interview with Mr Miller, as told to the Daily Record reporter Gordon Parks, included such colourful details as the winger apparently being repeatedly targeted with laser rangefinders and that he and his colleagues, Derek Whyte, Tommy Craig and Roy Aitken were carrying match balls down a street after this game when they passed a public house where they were confronted by angry locals.
The latter detail may cause some bemusement to Linfield supporters, given that even in those pre-redevelopment days, Windsor Park was wholly enclosed from any surrounding streets, and there remains a distinct lack of local hostelries in the area adjacent to the ground. We have played numerous friendly games at Windsor Park over the years against such clubs from Manchester United to Flamengo of Brazil, but have yet to ask opposing players to walk around South Belfast whilst carrying various match accoutrements.
What troubles us most of all, however, is that Linfield FC has no record of having played Aberdeen at Windsor Park or elsewhere in the entire decade Mr Miller refers to, whether in a friendly fixture, training game or otherwise. In fact, it appears that Linfield have never played against Aberdeen at all throughout our entire history.
A particularly concerning allegation made by Mr Miller, printed in the Daily Record and broadcast on social media to tens of thousands of views, was that “there were red dots on us for the whole 90 minutes” of this mysterious game. This fanciful account seems to suppose that the player and his colleagues were being targeted by multiple firearms, and was provided in the context of suggesting that it would be unsafe for Celtic supporters to visit our stadium, should that tie come to pass in due course. Given that Windsor Park was, and is, an almost entirely enclosed stadium, it would have been unlikely that this could have come from outside the ground, had this fixture actually taken place. Given also that neither the then-RUC nor the British Army carried lasers fitted to their weapons as standard, and that in 1995 it would be some years before laser pointers became easily available and affordable to members of the public, one wonders where, exactly, these red dots may have appeared from in this match that didn’t actually happen.
In light of everything stated above we can only suggest that this account is demonstrably untrue.
The club has now instructed solicitors to write to Mr Miller and the Daily Record accordingly.
This is just one of the press stories that have appeared in the last week that is easier to rebut. Our Solicitors have also been put on retainer to investigate any further attacks on the good character of this Club and its supporters. In the meantime, we would only ask that the media, like Linfield FC, concentrates on fixtures that have actually been arranged, and that any reporting of past events is conducted to proper journalistic standards.
A statement regarding the possible match against Celtic and the ticketing arrangements for that game will be released in due course, should we win the upcoming tie against La Fiorita.