Tommy McIntyre, the head coach of Celtic’s under-17 side, last night lauded his starlets for handling the Old Firm atmosphere to secure victory in the City of Glasgow Cup.
The young side lifted the trophy following a win over rivals Rangers.
Aidan Nesbitt scored the only goal of the game in front of a crowd of around 8000 at Celtic Park, with the resumption of derby hostilities creating a raucous atmosphere in the stands as both sets of supporters made the most of the chance to bait their fierce rivals.
Smoke bombs were set off in both sections of the ground and police were forced to move in on a group of Rangers fans when a flare was lit towards the end of the first half.
“All I can do is concentrate on the game,” said McIntyre. “I am oblivious as to what else is going on. It is such a focus. It is difficult sometimes to get a message on to the pitch because of the noise level of the crowd. But you trust the players. We went through the game plan and how we were going to play. You trust them to do it and when they went across that white line I thought they did it.”
Nesbitt’s low strike midway through the second half separated the sides, although Celtic’s dominance had been made clearer by their ability to control large swathes of the match.
Rangers almost snatched an equaliser in the closing seconds when Sam Jamieson’s shot struck the crossbar but it was to prove a disappointing night for the Ibrox team and coach Billy Kirkwood.
“It is great for both sets of players to play in a cup final with 8000 at the game,” he added. “Let’s be honest, there are a lot of SPL teams that don’t get 8000. It is great for the kids.
“It does add an edge. For the Old Firm players, that is the edge they need to have. Rangers and Celtic need to win, that is the habit that they have to get in to and the quicker they learn that the better. You can’t buy that experience.”