Both sides of the Glasgow divide will put their rivalry to one side on Sunday as Rangers FC and Celtic FC unite to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster.
On 2 January 1971, 66 people lost their lives when steel barriers on a stairway gave way, crushing Rangers fans as they filed out of the stadium after Colin Stein's added-time goal had cancelled out Jimmy Johnstone's last-minute opener for Celtic. Now, 40 years to the day, the two captains from that era, John Greig and Billy McNeill, will lead out the teams for the derby at Ibrox before a minute's silence is observed with both sets of players wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.
"Looking back, you feel you might have known something was going to happen," said Greig. "It was a damp, cold, foggy, miserable day and the floodlights were on even though the game was in the afternoon. They brought one or two bodies into the dressing room and to be honest I didn't know if the people on the tables were alive or dead. I walked out of the tunnel and it was pandemonium with people running about. The thing that sticks in my mind is the number of bodies laid along the touchline from the halfway line to the Rangers end."
The Celtic players were initially unaware of the unfolding tragedy as they were on the team bus within ten minutes of the final whistle, but manager Jock Stein then broke the news. "Jock stood at the front step of the bus and said 'there has been an incident and we think someone has died'," said former Celtic right-back Jim Craig. "He told the driver to take us back to Celtic Park and during the evening the numbers of dead and injured got more and more. It was a dreadful feeling to be involved in something like that."
Stein and his backroom staff stayed behind to tend the injured, setting the tone for a response which united a city in grief. Current Rangers manager Walter Smith, a spectator at the game with his brother, escaped the crush and recalls the spirit which brought both sides of Glasgow together. "Men, women and children lost their lives that day and they will never be forgotten by the people of Glasgow, who came together in the days and weeks following the disaster," said Smith. "It didn't matter what team you supported, or even if you were a football fan, the city was united in grief."
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