As a plane droned overhead above a sea of red, white and blue at a packed Ibrox, the joke was not lost on the Celtic players below.

“Hail! Hail! The Celts are here” read the banner the light aircraft trailed, a message to the small squad below enemy lines that they weren’t entirely alone.

“I remember we were warming up and one of the lads spotted it, 
I can’t remember who,” recalled Simon Donnelly. “It gave us all 
a chuckle.”

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In what would become an infamous afternoon at Ibrox, Celtic and Rangers settled for a point apiece after a 1-1 draw but the moral victory belonged to the Parkhead club.

Banned, in 1994, from taking any supporters to Ibrox by then chairman David Murray who claimed they had caused damage to the stadium on previous visits and for which Celtic had refused to pay the bill, he said that no Celtic fan would be admitted to the ground.

Not even members of the board attended the game.

“It was a really strange experience,” recalled Donnelly. “It was only us as players and those who were in the dug-out. That was it. It was completely surreal. There is no question that it felt like walking into the Lion’s den. You could sense the animosity towards us before we had even got off the bus!

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“We felt like we were representing the club and it gave us a real determination to go and get something. It definitely fired us up. I was just a kid. I was already super excited to be going out there and playing and the whole experience and hullabulloo around the game just inspired us to go out and lift it a bit.”

The game was the first time that Donnelly had played against the Ibrox side after just breaking into the Celtic senior team.

Such was the absence of anyone of a Celtic persuasion that Donnelly’s grandfather and dad borrowed season tickets off a Rangers fan in order that they could get into the ground to see him play. I think there might have been a few like that dotted around the ground but they were sensible enough to keep it quiet!” he joked.

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Whether the plans for the forthcoming season will have anyone smiling remains to be seen. Rangers have slashed the allocation of tickets for the Celtic support to around 800, a significant fall from the 8000 that routinely filled the Broomloan stand. 

Given the manner in which they have partied at Ibrox as Celtic have held court over Rangers in recent seasons has clearly been part of the thinking although with the Parkhead side responding in kind, there are 
fears that the unique atmosphere of the game will be diluted.

Certainly, though, if there is a suggestion that having a stadium of 50,000 voices in unison will offer a level of intimidation to Celtic going to Ibrox or the other way around, Donnelly believes it is a thought process that has been misplaced.

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“When you play at Ibrox as a Celtic player you are taking it from three ends of the stadium anyway,” he said. “If you are at the opposite end of the pitch than your own support then it is a wall of blue and you know that you are always going to take some abuse.

“It just won’t affect players in any way. If the players aren’t good enough then it doesn’t matter how many they outnumber the visiting support. Like that day when we went to Ibrox, you score a goal and all you can hear are the voices of your own team-mates in a strange kind of silence.

“If you are playing well then it doesn’t matter the size of the audience; they will fall silent. The people I feel for are the supporters. It will be a scramble for both sides to try to get tickets for the game and it’s a shame because they both add a sense of occasion to the game.

“When you see the Celtic fans at Ibrox and the Rangers fans at Celtic, it just gives something extra to the game. It won’t affect players at all in terms of intimidating them or making them go into their shell.

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“Professional footballers will turn it on anywhere. They just block out 
the noise. The bottom line is that if the players aren’t good enough to win a game on the park then there’s no way to influence that with what is going on around about them. The players need to be up for it, that’s the bottom line.”

Meanwhile, as Celtic stand on the cusp of breaking their own transfer record to bring Odsonne Edouard to the club on a permanent deal 
from PSG after a season on loan, Donnelly has admitted that he was converted from his original verdict on the 20-year-old.

“I wasn’t convinced at first,” admitted the former Scotland internationalist. “But I have to say that as time has gone on and he has played more games then there is definitely something.

“When you see that goal at Ibrox back in march then you have to think that kind of form is something that the likes of Brendan Rodgers 
and the other coaches are seeing on a daily basis.

“Given the age he is and the reputation that Rodgers has of making 
players better then you would have to expect that it could be another shrewd bit of business when it comes to looking further down 
the line.”