Brendan Rodgers calls for Celtic and Rangers fans to show passion and respect
BRENDAN RODGERS has urged the two sides of Glasgow's Old Firm divide to show both passion and respect when their teams face off at Hampden on Sunday.
The Celtic boss has been struck by the intensity of life north of the border since taking over at Parkhead earlier this summer. But he insists he has experienced none of the nastiness the fixture is capable of provoking while out and about in the city. And he hopes it stays that way when his team take on Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-finals at Hampden this weekend.
Last month's Ladbrokes Premiership clash between the sides was marred by the conduct of both supports, with the Celtic faithful criticised after effigies were hung from the Parkhead stands while the Gers fans were guilty of trashing a toilet. Police Scotland have already warned those attending Sunday's game to be on their best behaviour after confirming extra officers will be on duty during the match.
Speaking ahead of his first ever visit to the National Stadium, Rodgers said: "I've never had any trouble since I've been up here. I've enjoyed my football life and my social life outside of here.
"Any Rangers supporters I've met on my journey up here have been very respectful. I understand that when you manage or play for Celtic that it is a really privileged position. But I think it's important whether you are a Rangers supporter or a Celtic supporter, you can be really passionate about your club. You can love your club - it can be your life. But we have to live together and respect each other's passions. Going into this weekend's game, give all your support but respect what the result is and move on afterwards."
Gers have been doing their best to move on from the 5-1 pasting they received at Celtic Park. It was a painful defeat which brutally exposed the weaknesses in Rangers boss Mark Warburton's side. Since then, though, Rangers have won three out of five and Rodgers acknowledged there have been improvements made by Celtic's fiercest rivals.
"I have seen a little bit of them," said the Carnlough man.
"I saw a bit of the Inverness game and they look a little bit happier in how they are working. They have some really talented individual players and they want to work the ball and create chances. But my focus is always on my own team and we're always focused on what we can bring with our style. If we can impose that then as we've seen before, we can give a lot of problems to opponents.
"I don't think their game changes. The idea of their method will be fundamentally be the same. They are going to build from behind, they want to create opportunities from midfield and look to get the ball in the box to score. That's the way Mark believes in that way of working. I had heard Niko Kranjcar may be injured but I don't think that changes anything. Whoever comes in will be asked to do the job of building, creating and scoring goals."
Rodgers could not have asked for a better start in domestic terms since taking up the Celtic reins. The Hoops remain undefeated in Scottish competition but did appear off the pace as they slumped to a 2-0 Champions League defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday night.
It was an uncharacteristically sluggish display for the former Liverpool boss' side but even then, it took a pair of mistakes from Kolo Toure for the slick German outfit to break through. The Ivorian looked downcast as he trudged off the park at full-time but Rodgers insists he will have no hesitation throwing the defender back into the Old Firm spotlight.
Rodgers said: "Kolo is a wonderful player. The mark of the man is that after the game and the couple of moments he had, he came straight out and held his hands up.
"This is a guy who at 35 years of age could have travelled anywhere in the world to play, make a load of money, eat nice food and just relax and enjoyed his life. Instead he wanted to play at a top European club in the best possible competition he could, so he came here to Celtic. And he's been absolutely brilliant since he came here.
"It's just unfortunate the mistakes the other night. No one feels it more than him but we are very much together. Of course the spotlight goes on to Kolo but he's a strong guy mentally and will be fine the next time he is asked to play."