‘115,000 for three games looks pretty healthy to me’

CELTIC supporters see the current fascination with attendances in the east end of Glasgow as an attempt to slight their club by setting them against the remarkable box office appeal of their reincarnated Ibrox rivals.

Yet the 14,737 crowd that witnessed Gary Hooper’s four-goal blitz of Raith Rovers in Tuesday’s League Cup tie was not eye-catching for being half the figure Rangers attracted for the televised visit of Motherwell the next night. It was notable because it represents the lowest total for a competitive game at Celtic Park since 16,827 people turned out for a 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle on 5 May, 1994.

Following on from Parkhead being a third empty for the SPL visit of Dundee, the notion the club’s support feel something is ‘missing’ from the domestic set-up due to Rangers’ absence is regularly thrown up. Celtic manager Neil Lennon dismissed that, pointing out it was just league and League Cup games to which the stadium played host within the space of seven days. “The previous game [to Dundee] we had almost 60,000 in [for Benfica in the Champions League], so in three games we’ve had 115,000 people through the gate, and that’s pretty healthy for me. Especially in this economic climate,” he said.

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“I think too much is made of Rangers not being in the league. I’ve seen worse gates [in the SPL] for Celtic in my time here. I remember 30,000 for a game with Hibs and for Motherwell as well, so I am pleased with the support that we’ve been getting. It’s asking a lot for supporters to come out on three home games in a row and fill the place with 40,000 to 50,000 people. There’s not many clubs in the world can do that, never mind Britain. I think League Cup games this time of year, the crowds generally go down.

“When you have a big game like Benfica, it’s only natural you lose a few for the next one and you lose something with the Irish fans coming in midweek because of difficulties with travelling and cost. And the fact it was a League Cup game with Raith Rovers on a horrible night – we were just thankful of anyone being in the stadium.”

Celtic 2 Helsinki 1 (CL, Wed 1 August) 52,849

Celtic 1 Aberdeen 0 (SPL, Sat 4 August) 48,251

Celtic 2 Helsingborgs 0 (CL, Wed 29 August) 55,000

Celtic 2 Hibernian 2 (SPL, Sat 1 September) 45,867

Celtic 0 Benfica 0 (CL, Wed 19 September) 57,759

Celtic 2 Dundee 0 (SPL, Sat 22 September) 41,073

Celtic 4 Raith Rovers 1 (LC, Tues 25 September) 14,737