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Rodgers would love to see Celtic come back to play Linfield at Windsor again

By Steven Beacom

Brendan Rodgers has revealed his hope that Celtic could return to play Linfield at Windsor Park in the future - and that the game would be all about football.

Speaking ahead of tonight's Champions League qualifier return leg in Glasgow between the Bhoys and the Blues, the Co Antrim-born Celtic manager said he enjoyed his trip home to Northern Ireland last week for the opening leg at Windsor, but admitted the crowd trouble 'tainted' the occasion for him.

Rodgers' men won the match 2-0, but it was marred by a small minority of Linfield fans throwing objects at Celtic players.

It included a glass bottle of Buckfast hurled at Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths as he attempted to take a second-half corner.

Linfield supporters in the same section of the ground were furious after the final whistle when Griffiths tied a Celtic scarf to the goalpost at the Kop end.

Riot police moved in to ease the tension with one fan breaking through to run on to the pitch before being ushered away.

Earlier this week Uefa, European football's governing body, charged Linfield with the 'throwing of objects' and a 'field invasion', and Griffiths with 'provoking spectators'.

Reflecting on his return to Northern Ireland and the first time he had ever managed at Windsor Park, Carnlough-born Rodgers said: "We really enjoyed the trip to Northern Ireland. It's a wonderful country and Belfast is a great sporting city.

"It was a ground I was really looking forward to going to manage in. I've been very fortunate in my managerial career to manage in the Bernabeu, the Nou Camp, Anfield, Old Trafford, Wembley - great stadiums known throughout the world and then I was lucky enough to manage at Windsor Park which was always something I wanted to be able to do.

"To have done that and walked out with a team there was a real special night, even though it was half full. Going back home is always special.

"The bit at the end tainted it of course, but I tend not to focus on that. There was a lot of goodwill around our trip there. We don't want to go back into the dark ages stuff for Northern Ireland. The idea is to look forward."

Asked if he could envisage a day when Celtic and Linfield could ever play a game at Windsor Park and it be all about football, Rodgers was realistic but hopeful.

He said: "Socially it's difficult because it has that tag. It will be easier for other teams of course, but the history around Northern Ireland, Celtic and Windsor Park means there will always be an edge.

"It would have been nice to have had the stadium full, had the Celtic supporters in there and had a passionate game of football. Hopefully one day that will happen.

"There will always be a minority I'm sure, but that is the hope going forward."

Rodgers continued: "My focus is on football but what's important for me as a whole is that Northern Ireland moves on.

"My job has always been to represent Northern Ireland.

"I'm very proud to be from Northern Ireland and I always want to have that positivity around my country."

The former Liverpool manager added that he believed tonight's game at Celtic's Parkhead home would pass off peacefully.

"It's not a game I'm overly worried about in terms of behaviour," he said. "I think the Celtic supporters in my time here, home and away, have been absolutely amazing and supported their team passionately and create a great atmosphere.

"I try to think that supporters always come to support the game and their team, so if there is any message it would be to enjoy the game and behave yourselves, simple as that."   

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