IMAGINE the scene. A group of balaclava-wearing black-clad Lazio fans are marching through the streets of Glasgow in broad daylight performing Nazi salutes. Actually, you don’t have to. It actually happened. Imagine now though that two of them are stabbed. Who is to blame?

It is almost impossible to think of a more offensive sight on the streets of our biggest city, and yet, would you be pointing the finger at the extreme lunatic fringe of the Italian side’s support? Had they brought it on themselves? Or would you be damning those who attacked them?

Now imagine this scenario. A group of Celtic fans are enjoying a drink in a bar in Rome. Some hooded cowards make their way into the crowd and stab two of them before fleeing the scene. Who is to blame? Had they brought it on themselves? If your first instinct is to say yes, then I would suggest that club allegiances are blunting your faculties.

Let’s be clear, the Green Brigade are no saints. Nor would they claim to be. But are we really saying that if a section of Celtic fans display banners calling out the fascistic element of the Lazio support, and telling them to f*** off, then the 9000 or so Celtic supporters that travelled to Rome were fair game for a stabbing?

Perhaps conflating an entirely justified message of ‘f*** fascism’ with the more general ‘f*** Lazio’ is unfair to huge swathes of Lazio’s support, but does that mean the two Celtic fans who actually were stabbed brought it on themselves for daring to be associated with the supporters who sang it? Gie’s peace. The responsibility lies with the brain-dead morons who do the stabbing, no one else.

Any cursory knowledge of the experience of visiting fans in Rome would tell you that at best, there is very little evidence to support the theory that the Green Brigade had placed their fellow fans in the crosshairs, or any increased level of threat at all, by antagonising those precious Neo-Nazi lambs of the Lazio fringe.

Instead, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is a cultural problem in the city itself, with other large group of fans who have gone there in the past decade experiencing a similar form of violence against them.

Rome is an incredible place, and the vast majority of Celtic supporters who visited no doubt had a great time. There is a danger of blowing this all out of proportion and smearing a whole city in the same way that we tend to smear whole groups of supporters by the actions of a small few. Such is the age of social media.

The injuries suffered by the victims in this case too appear to be relatively minor according to reports, but there is no doubt they are part of a larger pattern that points to the motivation behind the attacks being about more than the mere sight of green and white hoops.

When Sevilla visited the city in January of this year, four people were stabbed. Fans of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have also been stabbed there in the past when following their teams.

And that is a crucial point. For the most part, these are just ordinary guys following their teams. There are few better experiences than taking a trip with your team on the continent, meeting up with fellow fans in some city square in a foreign country, having a few drinks and cheering on your team in European competition.

Incidents like this only serve to discourage people from doing so in the future, and that affects all of our teams and supporters. We should be asking what is being done to protect our fans on foreign soil, and be outraged at their treatment, rather than indulging in petty and parochial point-scoring or victim-blaming.

There are certain types that go to the football who love to indulge in this sort of stuff. The sort that will bellow bile in the direction of a player or manager for 90 minutes, or throw a coin or bottle at them, and then proclaim whatever has befallen said target was entirely their fault for cupping their ears or flicking the vickie’s or some such in response.

Mercifully, at the time of writing – touch wood – there have been no really serious or life-threatening injuries to report from Rome.

Hopefully, the rest of the Celtic support managed to enjoy their trip and they all come back unscathed, save perhaps for a few thousand self-inflicted sore heads.


WHILE Craig Brown was Scotland manager, he said he would rather have a willing volunteer than a reluctant conscript. That didn’t stop him throwing the book at club managers like Howard Wilkinson and Dick Advocaat when they pulled players out of international squads, mind you.

It’s an age-old problem, as Steve Clarke is now finding out too.

The unwillingness of Arsenal to release Kieran Tierney, despite his recent track-record with injury, is concerning.

Tierney is no doubt frustrated too, given that he has yet to play under Clarke and his first chance to do so will now be the March play-off matches, hardly ideal when Clarke is trying to figure out a way to accommodate both Tierney and Andy Robertson.

Clarke knows that a need for diplomacy comes with the territory, but if Arsenal continue to treat international breaks as a chance for their players to rest and recuperate, he might be forced to take a leaf from Brown’s rule-book soon enough.