Neil Lennon’s calls for the first Glasgow Derby to be delayed so that it has a better chance of having fans in attendance have received support from an unlikely source.
Former Rangers right-back, Alan Hutton, has backed the gaffer’s opinion on playing such a big fixture without an atmosphere in an interview with Football Insider.
So what has Hutton said?
When asked about the prospect of the derby taking place behind closed doors, he said:
“I saw Lennon talking about it, Rangers are yet to comment on it. I do understand his point of view, I think playing an Old Firm game behind closed doors, it wouldn’t feel right.
“No football game (behind closed doors) feels right but for that, it’s really built on the atmosphere so for it not to be there, it would be really difficult. If they’re looking to the near future thinking fans are going to be able to go, then fine, push it back a little while.
“However, if we’re talking that most of the season is going to be behind closed doors then we might as well get on with it and deal with the fixtures as they come.”
So is Hutton correct?
There is one other obvious factor at play, the first clash between the two Glasgow giants is due to take place at Celtic Park and given the historical importance of next season, any advantage – however slim – should be nailed down before a ball is kicked.
Callum McGregor was also vocal in his support of his boss with the midfielder supporting a shift in the fixtures to when fans are allowed back into grounds, whenever that may be.
The most likely outcome, regardless of the advice issued by the Scottish Government is that the first two derby fixtures will be played behind closed doors to ensure an element of “fairness”, when these fixtures will actually take place is anyone’s guess with the SPFL now being subjected to legal action following the relegations of Hearts and Partick Thistle respectively.
One of the biggest games in the world – and the main reason TV companies pay to broadcast Scottish football – would be a shadow of itself if it was held behind closed doors, and delaying the fixtures for as long as is reasonably practicable would not only benefit the game but be in the best interests of both sides of the Glasgow divide.