ROBBIE Keane has expressed his hope that tonight’s Euro 2016 qualifier at Celtic Park is not blighted by crowd disorder in the wake of the row over the number of tickets allocated to visiting Irish fans.
The Football Association of Ireland have been critical of their SFA counterparts for allocating them just 3,209 tickets.The game is a 60,000 sell-out and some Irish fans are understood to have obtained tickets for sections of the stadium intended for Scotland supporters. John Delaney, the chief executive of the FAI, has already claimed it could lead to “tension” during the game.
Republic of Ireland captain Keane, who had a four-month loan spell at Celtic in 2010, expects to see many more than the official number of his countrymen at Parkhead and has called for them to maintain their reputation for good-humoured conduct.
“There will be a lot of Irish fans around the stadium, no question about it,” said Keane. “I just hope there is no trouble and everyone behaves. The Irish fans are always fantastic and hopefully it will be no different this time.”
Former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady is expected to bear the brunt of derision from Scottish supporters tonight but Keane has no doubts his Glaswegian team-mate will not be perturbed by the situation.
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“I think good players relish being booed,” said Keane. “Certainly, that’s my experience anyway. It’s something you quite enjoy. Knowing Aiden as I do, I don’t think it will affect him too much.
“I’m sure he’ll rise to the occasion like he has done for the last few games. He’s been here for a few years with Celtic and was a great player for them. I know he’s excited about coming back. I don’t think what people say or whether the crowd are going to boo him will affect him too much. I’m sure they will boo him, but I’m also sure he’ll enjoy it.”
Keane, now playing for LA Galaxy in the MLS at the age of 34, is relishing his own return to a venue where he had a brief but enjoyable spell.
“Honestly, the whole experience was fantastic,” he said. “ I remember coming up from London and coming to Celtic Park late at night to sign and there were around 5,000 people there waiting for me.
“It was one of the best feelings you can ever get as a player. Just walking out on Celtic Park and putting on that green and white jersey, from start to finish the experience for me was great. I enjoyed every minute of it.
“Having grown up as a Celtic fan and then having the privilege to play here, and managing to score a few goals while I was here, was extra special. So of course it would be nice if that was the case tomorrow.”
Keane will exchange handshakes before kick-off tonight with Scott Brown and he holds the Scotland captain in high regard from his short spell alongside him at Celtic.
“Scott was brilliant when I was here,” added Keane. “He wears his heart on the sleeve and he gives everything for Celtic and his country. It’s clear when you see him playing. I’m sure it will be no different.
“He will be the same Scott that I know, going around kicking people! But he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, because he is a good football player too. He doesn’t mind a tackle and it will be interesting to play against him.”
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