Rus­sell: At­tack on play­ers ‘poor’

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SCOTTISH CUP FINAL - STE­WART FISHER

B OBBY Rus­sell thought the days of police horses be­ing re­quired to re­store or­der after na­tional cup fi­nals were long gone. The former Rangers mid­fielder, a vet­eran of the in­fa­mous 1980 Scot­tish Cup fi­nal which ended in a massed riot be­tween Celtic and Rangers fans on the Ham­p­den pitch, wasn’t at the na­tional sta­dium yes­ter­day, choos­ing in­stead to watch the match at a city cen­tre pub with his brother and their sons.

While the com­par­i­son with that in­ci­dent is a far from per­fect one - for a start, the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice (Scot­land) Bill and al­co­hol ban which fol­lowed that match means that bot­tles and beer cans were no longer at hand for easy weaponry – it is the only one Scot­tish foot­ball has got. While there were only 11 ar­rests at the ground – more will surely fol­low when footage is an­a­lysed – Satur­day’s match was at least a mod­ern vari­ant of the phe­nom­e­non.

Un­like events 36 years ago, when the pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony had ac­tu­ally taken place and the play­ers were all to Rus­sell’s knowl­edge safely back in their dress­ing rooms, this time even play­ers and back­room staff found them­selves caught up in the hooli­gan­ism. In­deed, con­sid­er­ing the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, and the fact that half a dozen Rangers play­ers and back­room staff were at­tacked by the in­vaders, it could be said to be even more de­press­ing.

“I think the emo­tions got the bet­ter of the Hibs fans, to be fair,” said Rus­sell. “Hav­ing not won it for 114 years they lost con­trol and ran on to the pitch. But at­tack­ing the play­ers is pretty poor. It is just un­ac­cept­able.

“We weren’t re­ally privy to what went on,” re­called Rus­sell, when asked to think back to those 1980 events. “We were all in the chang­ing rooms so we didn’t re­ally see how much it es­ca­lated. The main thing I re­mem­ber was be­ing very dis­ap­pointed firstly by the way we had per­formed on the day and hav­ing lost the game.

“When we got back to Ibrox there was a lot of anger be­ing vented,” he added. “Look, we were all dis­ap­pointed by how it went but at the end of the day we had tried our best, it just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t un­til the news that you re­alised how bad it had got.”

For all the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two in­ci­dents, once again the trig­ger for events was a de­ci­sive goal late in ex­tra time, and that first wave of spec­ta­tors en­ter­ing the field of play. While yes­ter­day it was David Gray’s 92nd minute header, back in 1980 it was a Ge­orge McCluskey shot, de­flected in from a Danny McGrain shot, late in ex­tra time which gave Celtic a 1-0 win. Soon waves of hooli­gans from ei­ther side were charg­ing at each other, as a hope­lessly out­manned police corps at­tempted to deal with the sit­u­a­tion, the spark ap­par­ently a young Celtic fan blast­ing a ball into the Rangers net. In com­men­tary, Archie McPher­son de­scribed it as a foot­ball equiv­a­lent of WWI bat­tle Pass­chen­daele.

“In 1980 it was more pent-up anger,” said Rus­sell. “It was a poor game, nei­ther team de­served to win it and that just skewed the sit­u­a­tion. It just took a few mind­less peo­ple to run on the park in the first place then it all kicks off from there. “It was like the Hibs fans yes­ter­day – it all starts with a few mind­less peo­ple run­ning on to the pitch. Once a hand­ful do it then the rest think they are do­ing it. But the fact the play­ers are still there and ended up get­ting at­tacked makes it worse.”

The SFA and Police Scot­land launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent last night, but Rus­sell re­luc­tantly reck­ons one piece of re­me­dial ac­tion is re­quired. Quite sim­ply, it must be made more dif­fi­cult for sup­port­ers to en­ter the field of play.

“I don’t know ex­actly what it is like in Ger­many but it is a fair guess that it is nigh im­pos­si­ble for spec­ta­tors to get onto the pitch,” he said. “It doesn’t mat­ter how many stew­ards you put there, it is just too easy for them to get on. Per­haps they [the author­i­ties] were caught by sur­prise, be­cause it was 30-odd years since it last hap­pened,. Lessons, you would think, can usu­ally be learned.”

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