Stokes: Old Firm clash 'blown out of proportion'

Anthony Stokes insists Celtic's players do not need a police pep talk ahead of the Co-operative Insurance Cup final against Rangers at Hampden on March 20.

Anthony Stokes insists Celtic's players do not need a police pep talk ahead of the Co-operative Insurance Cup final against Rangers at Hampden on March 20.

Following the recent controversial Old Firm Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Parkhead which ended with three visiting players sent off and Hoops manager Neil Lennon and Ibrox assistant Ally McCoist having to be separated, both clubs were invited to a summit at the request of Strathclyde Police chief constable Stephen House.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond hosted the meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday which looked to provide answers to the problems of sectarianism and bad behaviour both on and off the field and the possibility of police visiting the clubs before Old Firm fixtures to remind players of their responsibilities, was mooted.

However, Stokes, looking forward to Sunday's Scottish Cup quarter-final tie at Inverness, said: "To be fair, I don't think any of our players need reminding.

"In the last game we had two or three yellow cards but I don't think there was anything out of order by our players.

"I think we understand the situation and as I said, I don't think any of our players were out of line.

"It was just frustration a little bit on their part and it is one of those things that happen.

"I think the whole situation has been blown out of proportion.

"Obviously the scenes on the sidelines weren't what you wanted to see, but with the rivalry and the tension and the things that go with it, sometimes these things happen.

"Hopefully it can be forgotten about because we are coming up against each other again before the end of the season and we want to focus on the football."

The fall-out from the cup replay, which Celtic won 1-0, continued this week.

Lennon and McCoist were charged with misconduct by the Scottish Football Association, with the Parkhead boss handed an automatic four-match touchline ban, due to a previous charge of misconduct, and McCoist a two-match touchline ban.

Lennon is currently serving a four-match touchline ban after being sent to the stand at Tynecastle last November and avoided the media again today at the weekly press conference at Lennoxtown.

Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby does not know if the Irishman will appeal the latest suspension and is simply hoping the focus can return to football and Sunday's cup-tie in the Highlands.

"I haven't spoken to him about that (the ban)," the former Celtic defender said.

"Obviously the club and Neil have to sit down and discuss it.

"It is a blow that he is not going to be on the touchline but we will still have a game plan and it is all about the players at the end of the day.

"The main thing is, whatever happens, we have to get on with things and continue to do what we are trying to do.

"Our focus is just on the Inverness game. We just want to forget the Rangers game.

"The most important thing is the football side of things and we have to win games and be successful."

Lennon will have to reshuffle his side with right back Mark Wilson and skipper suspended and stopper Daniel Majstorovic ruled out for up to eight weeks after fracturing a toe on his right foot.

Mjallby believes Celtic are well covered in the centre back area.

He said: "Daniel has been very important for us and has played exceptionally well for us in the last three months so it is a big blow.

"The good thing is we have three centre halves, Charlie Mulgrew, Glenn Loovens and Thomas Rogne, raring to go so we are not too bad in that department."

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