Glasgow Derby: A day of shame which should unite all supporters

Bernard Ponsonby reflects on the splintered bottle thrown into the penalty area.

Glasgow Derby: A day of shame which should unite all supporters Rob Casey via SNS Group

Yesterday, as the second half of a par for the course Glasgow derby was about to get underway, the Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart cut a worried looking figure in the goal in front of the Copland Road stand.

The reason for his concern was soon relayed to the huge television audience watching at home, in bars and around the world. The base of a bottle lay inside the penalty area and fragments from the shattered bottle dangerously dotted other parts of the box.

The pictures were as depressing as they were worrying. Whoever threw the bottle could have hit a fellow supporter, perhaps even a youngster who was just out to enjoy the game.

The splintered bottle represented not only a threat to Hart but to every player who would enter that penalty box. In all likelihood, that would include every player on the pitch bar the Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

In the seemingly never-ending search for stupidity among some football “fans” this represented a new low, easily on a par with idiots who over the years have entered the field of play to do physical harm to players and managers.

Later it emerged that a member of the Celtic backroom staff required stitches to a head wound after being apparently hit with another bottle.

To the credit of the club’s manager Ange Postecoglou, he condemned “a few idiots” whilst generally remaining upbeat about the intensity of the game and the atmosphere.

Whatever else was uppermost in Postecoglou’s mind, taking the moral high ground was not one of them and he chose his words with more than a nod to diplomacy, careful not to turn the frankly appalling incidents yesterday into a spat that would seek to demonise his opponents’ supporters.

The Aussie was correct in his content and pitch. Thankfully, the definitive and near-universal chorus emerging from social media posts I looked at condemned in the strongest possible terms those responsible for shaming themselves.

There was a marked absence of the “whataboutery” that can sometimes accompany an incident when the supporters of one club are, metaphorically speaking, under the cosh.

Turning a serious issue into a tit for tat trading of bad behaviour would be to miss the point. Yesterday crossed several lines of what is acceptable and what is not. The overwhelming majority get that much, which is perhaps the only positive note to come out of a day of shame.

Now, as one who is no stranger to a football ground, I have witnessed risqué banners, chanting I would rather not hear and passion which occasionally boils over to turn the atmosphere and not for the better.

Throwing missiles is nothing new, especially at corner flags. It is cowardly as well as wrong and it still happens all too frequently.

Let’s be clear, to 99.9% of those in the ground it revolts for those who have come along to support their team know that their club’s reputation suffers because of “a few idiots”, to quote Postecoglou.

What possesses people? Drink would appear to be one of the answers and some posts I read suggested many youngsters are also mixing the electric soup with drugs. If that is the case many are clearly entering the ground whilst being noticeably off their faces.

What’s the answer? More stewards? More searches? Trying to screen 50,000 people every game would seem disproportionate given these incidents, whilst not rare, are not common either.

In these parts, the notion of “a grass” does not play well but those who sat next to the people who threw those bottles must know who they are.

It is their responsibility to “grass”, not only because it is the right thing to do but because turning a blind eye will only further damage the club they love.

This is not a difficult call. Drawing the culprits to the attention of the club and the police does the right thing by yourself, your fellow supporters, your club but perhaps more importantly for everyone who enters a football ground, since it seeks to put such conduct beyond the pale.

Bottles as weapons in the hands of the idiotic is the issue and they have to be called out, banned for life by the club and dealt with as appropriate by the police and courts.

Quite frequently on football boards involving all of the major Scottish clubs, I see posts from parents asking, “do I want to continue to take my kids to this?”

These are in response to flashpoints involving offensive chanting, attempts to wind up the opposition which are in bad taste, or missiles being thrown.

No adult should ever have to ask themselves the question, “will my kids be safe at a game?” They should not have to worry about a football match being a calling card to join the ranks of the mindless.

That’s why yesterday’s incidents need to be seen to be dealt with by the club themselves and by the police.

The key though could lie with those in the ground who can strike the right kind of blow, that for what is right by revealing the identity of the culprits.

If they do, they should have the support of every fan in the country irrespective of the colours they follow.