Brendan Rodgers believes the Scottish Professional Football League should not shrink away from giving Celtic the chance to clinch the Premiership title against Rangers in the first round of post-split fixtures.
The SPFL are expected to release the schedule for the final five match days of the season today and are understood to be keen to avoid the possibility of the title being decided in the last Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park.
Such a scenario has been dreaded by the authorities since 1999 when violent scenes marred Rangers’ 3-0 win at Parkhead which saw them crowned champions.
But Celtic manager Rodgers, pictured, believes it is a poor reflection of both Scottish football and the country as a whole that the highest profile and most commercially attractive match on the fixture list has to be shifted into a less meaningful slot.
“It’s sad for Scottish football and society in Scotland,” said Rodgers. “In any other country in the world, they would look to play the game and showcase your football – whether it was Real Madrid v Barcelona, Manchester United v Manchester City or AC Milan v Inter. They’d be falling over themselves to get it on the telly. But for some reason we can’t do that here which is a sad indictment of the world that it is here at times. If it’s one they want to do, then they should do it and put it at an appropriate kick-off time and trust that people can behave and play the game and show it as a great advert for Scottish football. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope things don’t happen.
“It would happen in every other country in the world. Let’s live and learn. I know they are trying to avoid what happened in 1999 but it’s been a long time since then. You have to show that football and society has changed for the better and you can make it work. Hopefully they will do that and not just try and avoid it.
“Scotland is a wonderful country with passionate supporters so make it a great advert – let’s not run away from it. I haven’t been told (it definitely won’t happen) so let’s see what they do.
“Look at the Manchester derby on Saturday, when City could have clinched the title, and yes, there were pockets of trouble. But the games I’ve been involved in up here with Celtic and Rangers, the passion has been incredible. They are high octane, intense games but that’s what you want. That’s what football is about.
“They have to trust that the authorities and everyone can deal with it in the best possible way that they can. It’s a league where the split makes things happen to make it more exciting. It’s an opportunity to put on a game that I’m sure everyone would watch. It gets good viewing figures anyway, but a chance for Celtic to win the league on that game would be great. “Hopefully they can trust that the game can go by and they can deal with it rather than run away from it.”
Celtic moved to within three points of their seventh consecutive title by beating Hamilton Accies 2-1 at New Douglas Park yesterday.
Accies boss Martin Canning, whose team are just five points clear of the bottom of the table, was angered by referee Andrew Dallas’ dismissal of midfielder Darren Lyon for two bookable offences for clashes with Kieran Tierney in quick succession just before half-time.
“It was a really soft decision,” said Canning. “I actually thought it was a foul for us. Kieran Tierney’s jumped in on Darren Lyon. There’s obviously a coming together and Darren pulls to get himself back into the game and Tierney away from him. I felt Tierney goes down a bit easily as well, throws himself a bit. For me, it’s never a second yellow card.”