Festive cheer may be in short supply for Brendan Rodgers from the home support as he makes a first trip to Ibrox as Celtic manager. This Christmas, though, he has already enjoyed that in life-affirming fashion from one particular Rangers fan.
Rodgers spent Christmas morning in Belfast’s Northern Ireland Hospice, of which he is an ambassador and strong financial supporter, and there he encountered one patient who made a special request of him that presents Glasgow’s footballing rivalry in the light he chooses to see it.
“In the hospice I was talking to an old guy Billy, bless him, who is from the Monkstown Rangers Supporters Club, and we had a great chat about the game,” said Rodgers, pictured. “I sat at his bedside and we had a real good chat. He wanted a photograph so if he got out he could take it to the Rangers supporters’ club on Boxing Day. We had a cuddle. That is what it’s about. Whatever it is, it’s about life now. I’ll look forward to it. It will be a great atmosphere. These are great games.
“I’m sure the welcome won’t be as nice as when we come to Parkhead, but so be it. We’ll deal with it. It’s only natural, though. This will be a game where both sets of supporters will have big passion for their teams. I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere at Ibrox. They will really get behind their team and that’s the way it should be. Our support provide that in every game we play, wherever it is. And after 90 minutes you’ll go away and get on with your life and talk about the game.”
The occasion of a derby that does have a global reach is to be cherished for all that elements within it are truly vile, Rodgers believes. “I am sure the worldwide audience for this game will be huge,” he said. “It has always been a great game for people throughout the world. Yes, there is baggage that comes with it, but we are moving into a new era. I don’t need to lecture any supporters, in particular my own, but you want your supporters to be passionate. But, irrespective of the result, you move into your normal life again and you mix together and live your life together.”