Sir Kenny Dalglish was speaking in his role to promote the Guinness Pro14 final at Celtic Park on 25 May. The Guinness Pro 14 final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit pro14rugby.org/finaltickets
Glasgow Warriors play Ulster in the first semi-final on Friday 17th and Leinster meet Munster in Dublin the following day, and it is a fair bet that, whichever two teams go through, a sizeable section of their support will be aware of the special atmosphere that can be generated at Celtic’s home ground. As for those who may know nothing of the venue, a quick visit to YouTube will be ideal preparation, according to Dalglish.
“They’ll make the experience for themselves,” the former Celtic and Liverpool player and manager said on a visit to Scotstoun, the Warriors’ home ground, last Friday. “If they want to watch a few videos, I’m sure they can learn from the Celtic fans.
“It’s a great facility. It’s a great atmosphere, to go and play at Celtic Park with so much history, tradition and success there. It makes you feel you want to join it. A good incentive for them.”
Dalglish’s strongest link to rugby is through his son-in-law, the former Cardiff, Gloucester and Wales stand-off Nicky Robinson, and he never played the sport himself, deeming it too physical. But he returns to his home city often enough to be aware of how the Warriors have gradually improved, and of how successfully they have settled at Scotstoun after never quite finding a lasting fit at some of their previous venues.
“They had it at Firhill, didn’t they?” the 68-year-old continued. “I don’t know how long it lasted up there. I saw a game up there, Glasgow played Gloucester, so it’s not the first time football has been used for rugby.
“I don’t know a great deal about it, but Glasgow has only come out of the woodwork really in the last few years since Gregor Townsend was here. They had nowhere to play. They were up at Hyndland, did they not used to play there? And at Anniesland Cross.
“To see Glasgow beating Edinburgh in the rugby is really encouraging. We’re not really a rugby city, are we?”
While welcoming the use of Celtic Park for rugby as a one-off, Dalglish insisted that the wear and tear on the pitch meant it could not become a regular event. “I don’t think you could do it week in, week out, certainly if you want a good surface for the football. Rugby rips it up more with the scrums and whatever else.
“Celtic must have spent a fortune on their pitch to get it well manicured, because that suits the style they play. There is a crossover between the two, but paramount for Celtic would be the pitch, and maybe that would prevent it moving more frequently to play football and rugby on the same pitch.
“The pitch will be good for rugby – maybe too good. It is well manicured, but they’re used to playing here, so if they get to the final they will have given themselves a good chance. This [pointing to the Scotstoun pitch], I know it’s artificial and doesn’t suit everyone, but it suits Glasgow’s needs and they have done really well. For the final to be at Celtic Park is a great incentive to beat Ulster.”
Dalglish was an intelligent striker but a courageous one as well, and never shied away from a tussle with the more robust breed of defender. But he admitted that when it came to rugby, he has always preferred chatting about it to actually taking part.
“I remember getting a Question of Sport answer right on rugby. It was about the Six Nations. One of the Irish boys kicked the points that won them the Six Nations – it was a long time ago. That would be as close as I got to rugby – it was too physical for me. We used to come off the pitch when we were at school and we would be dirty and a bit sore, but we wouldn’t be cut – not often.”