Drunken violence and hideous sectarianism of Celtic fans showed Sunderland game was awful idea – don’t let them or Rangers return

Celtic fans make themselves heard at Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
Celtic fans make themselves heard at Sunderland's Stadium of Light.
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The possibility that any individual will own up to having the idea is barely discernible.

The search for anyone admitting that they actually thought it was a good one will probably be fruitless too.

But we’ll ask anyway. Who on earth thought that a home friendly with Celtic was just what Sunderland needed?

This is not wisdom after the event. We didn’t say anything beforehand, lest we be accused of pre-empting things. Not that it would have made the slightest difference to Saturday’s events.

The game produced drunken violence, flares and some hideous sectarianism. This came as a surprise to precisely no one.

Looking at the fun and games that some Celtic fans were indulging in revived memories of their grandads doing much the same during a visit to Roker Park in 1965.

Then there was the 1993 visit of Rangers, tantamount to the same thing for those who tend to put all their bigots in one basket.

The atmosphere was already perfectly horrible that day when Sunderland exacerbated matters by stupidly taking the lead; although the police were relieved that Rangers went on to win 3-1.

We can’t claim that history didn’t provide any warning.

How did those dressed in green and white hoops casually enter the home sections? This led directly to the punch-up I saw in the east stand that greeted the first goal.

Matters in the city were augmented by the arrival of some jailbird at a meeting in a Sunderland off-licence where they formed Britain’s least formidable quiz team.

Yes, an off-licence. Classy. Perhaps all the caves were booked up.

Something of this nature was always going to happen. We knew this as soon as SAFC “revealed” (the world and his dog knew weeks before) that this game would be staged.

We also have to wonder how the police allowed the off-licence party to happen in the first place; or why they agreed to the fixture at all.

We must caveat this by saying that the majority of Celtic fans are not bigots or terrorist sympathisers; boisterous but harmless and create a magnificent atmosphere wherever they go.

Hats off too to the police officers further down the chain of command who did an excellent job on Saturday in the face of the strange decision by their superiors.

But for SAFC it was the latest in a long list of thumping PR disasters. How does the club feel that their “showpiece” weekend went? What was the attendance anyway? Was it all worth it, bearing in mind how few home supporters turned up?

This is before we even consider the footballing feast that the players served up. It wasn’t quite the confidence booster that was hoped for.

The club is not responsible for the behaviour of every loony to disgrace themselves in Sunderland four days ago, but it could be said every event from Saturday was directly or indirectly attributable to the nonsensical decision to arrange that game.

As the unpleasantness was always going to happen, to the point of being blindingly obvious, any abrogation of responsibility from SAFC would be, to say the least, unconvincing.

A minor positive from the whole shambles is that it dispels the myth that it’s desperately important to have home friendlies; because it was the worst possible preparation for when the real football begins on Friday.

And for THIS did your city dispense with a hard-won international reputation as a major concert venue. What was the thinking – if any?

Some damage limitation could be scavenged by resuming concerts; even if it’s just one in 2018. This place needs such things. Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Harry Belafonte, Showaddywaddy ... anyone.

But it will take more than that to restore good will. The Celtic debacle has now been lobbed upon the towering pile of SAFC cock-ups. These could be ignored if it coincided with scintillating footy, but as you may have noticed...

What now off the field? My suggestion, other than the return of concerts and the non-return of either Celtic or Rangers, is to put public relations wizard Darron Gibson in charge of media relations. He wouldn’t worsen matters and at least it would be a laugh.