GARY MCALLISTER has only ever attended an Old Firm game as a neutral.
Things will be very different when he goes to Parkhead as Rangers’ assistant manager for today’s high-noon clash.
It’s no secret that he grew up supporting the Light Blues, and the former Scotland skipper looks back on his career wondering if he should have signed for them.
He said: “I nearly joined Rangers once or twice, maybe three times. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“The draw for me staying south of the border with Leeds was that if it wasn’t playing at Elland Road, it was Highbury or Old Trafford.
“That’s what kept me in England. But now I’ve seen it at Ibrox, it might have been nice.
“Rangers were dominating under Walter Smith at the times I was linked with the club.It might have been good to put on the jersey.
“I’ve not been to a great many Old Firm matches, only a couple.
“I was there purely as a neutral, or doing a wee bit of broadcasting work.
“The loudest Rangers’ crowd I’ve heard is still the one when I was playing for Leeds in the Champions League.
“To this day, I can remember looking at Strachan, Batty and Speed and thinking: ‘That’s as loud as I’ve heard it here’.”
Although he hasn’t been to many in person, McAllister will be on hand to tell a few stories about Glasgow derbies of the past.
He said: “When the fixture list comes out, it’s the one everybody looks for.
“It’s very early in our schedule, surprisingly, but it is the big game in Scotland. So it has to be a game the players are looking forward to.
“This game against Celtic will be different because we’ll only have a few hundred travelling fans. It will be interesting to see.
“These are the games that I hope the players are looking forward to. It’s a fantastic challenge going there.
“I think the players know what that game is all about. I’m sure the home-grown lads will be making the others very much aware of what it means.”
Rangers could probably have done without last Thursday’s 6,000-mile round trip to Russia for the Europa League play-off second leg again FC Ufa.
Having two players sent off will have added to the fatigue of the nine who battled manfully to get through to the knock-out stage.
It may have been tiring, but the successful outcome will have added to the team’s growing confidence.
McAllister reckons these trips are vital for generating a sense of togetherness.
He went on: “I think back to when I played in the Liverpool team that won the UEFA Cup. There were loads of games where we didn’t play well but we dug in together.
“I’ve been reminded of that by the last two or three away games we’ve had.
“When we have been under the cosh, there has been a really good togetherness.
“People just remember you getting throughnot the performances.
“By getting into the Europa League proper, people might remember the performances. But, at the moment, it’s about knowing how to win and get over the line.”
McAllister, 53, has been a quiet influence on Steven Gerrard’s revolution at Ibrox. The former Scotland man has much more experience than Gerrard, but he’s content to let his ex-team-mate make the big decisions.
He said: “I know my job because I’ve been at the front line. I’m very aware of the pitfalls there, hence the word assistant. I am trying to assist.
“Not only have I worked as an assistant, I’ve worked as a coach, I’ve worked on the commercial side, I’ve been an ambassador. so I have worked in every aspect of a football club.
“Of course I’ve been a player and that’s the biggest thing. I’m an ex-player.
“I am there for the players and, hopefully, they will lean on somebody who has been there.”