Despite complaints about the shortage of tickets for Ireland supporters and criticism of the FAI for the way they have handled their official allocation, Packie Bonner expects the travelling Green Army to be bolstered by ‘fifth columnists’ in Celtic Park tomorrow night.
That was certainly his experience in 1987 when Scotland hosted Ireland at Hampden Park in a European Championship qualifier — which Jack Charlton’s team won 1-0 — and he suggests it could be more of the same this time around at the home of his beloved Celtic.
“I’m surprised that Scotland have organised it in this way — to bring an Irish team to Glasgow and put them up in Celtic Park,” says the former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper.
“Because when you think about it, there’s no doubt about it, there’s going to be a faction of that support, if they get the tickets, that is second and third generation Irish and they might be actually supporting Ireland.
“There will be people there like that who would go to the game because it’s in Celtic Park — or if it had been in Hampden — who wouldn’t go if it was in Ibrox. That doesn’t happen in many countries.”
Bonner also thinks that the ‘home from home’ aspect of the fixture for some of the game’s personalities can ultimately be to the visitors’ advantage.
“It’s going to be a big night for the likes of Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan too — two ex-Celtic managers up against each other. Then you have Roy Keane, you have Robbie Keane, you have Aiden McGeady — all those Irish guys going back to where they played their football for a while. And I think they’ll be really enjoying it because of that.”
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