RIVAL managers Ronny Deila and Kenny McDowall have united in a call for calm ahead of Sunday’s return of the Old Firm fixture at Hampden.
There are fears of potential crowd disorder at and around the League Cup semi-final which will see Celtic and Rangers face each other for the first time in almost three years.
Police Scotland have already visited both clubs to remind players of their responsibilities in how they conduct themselves during the match, while some officers have been familiarised with the words of proscribed sectarian songs as a zero tolerance approach to supporters singing them is planned.
The Old Firm fixture has a long history of violence and police are concerned Sunday’s match could be an especially highly-charged occasion in light of Rangers’ financial collapse and exit from the top flight of Scottish football in 2012.
Speaking while on official SPFL media duties at Hampden yesterday, both Celtic manager Deila and Rangers caretaker boss McDowall expressed their wishes for an afternoon unsullied by unacceptable behaviour on or off the pitch.
“For me, I just hope the football comes out on top and there’s nothing on the outside that tarnishes it,” said McDowall. “It’s been a long time coming and we need to make sure football is the winner.
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“It’s important that everyone keeps a lid on it and remembers football is the important bit. We should be talking about the players and the game after it and not anything untoward.
“We’ve waited nearly three years for an Old Firm game so never mind the eyes of the world being on us, I expect the people in Pluto will be watching it! Seriously, the most important thing is the game and that it’s a good spectacle.
“The police have been to our place and to Celtic as well and spoke to the players and told them the job they have to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. I attended the meeting and we get the warning.”
Deila, who is preparing for his first Old Firm match, is also fully supportive of the police advice and has issued his own edict to his players in the form of a temporary ban from using social media.
“I said in the past we want to have a peaceful game and it’s important that we behave respectfully and in a good manner,” said Deila. “Then everybody can go to the game in peace.
“Everything we do can affect it. Not only on the pitch, but also what you do on the internet, Twitter, whatever. Those are things we don’t want to be a part of this week. I have told the players to stay off Twitter this week.
“We have talked about discipline which is always important. They get tested more in these games and that is why it is even more important to be disciplined and focused and concentrate on the right things.
“Winners don’t only play with their heart, they play also with their heads. We have to do both. That’s the most important thing. I’m very confident the players will do that. Something like 60 per cent of them have played in this derby before.
“They have played very important matches and they have experienced this. I have a captain in Scott Brown who knows what this is all about so I am quite confident that we are going to play with good discipline. We have not had any problems with that this season.
“The police made it clear to us that if we do things that cause trouble it will always have consequences. It is important to know that they have also visited Rangers and also been to Aberdeen and Dundee United who play in the other semi-final.
“I understand that. It would happen also if there was a derby in Sweden or Norway. I have been in Stockholm where there has been a lot of trouble. In Norway also, in Oslo. The big cities have big derbies, but this is bigger than any of those derbies of course. That’s why I understand well that it’s important for the police to get the information out before it happens.”