He is the architect of the Unionist core: Chris O’Loughlin, the Sporting Director of Saint-Gilles, is naturally on the trip to Glasgow to gauge his yellow and blue pickaxes. For the Northern Irishman, this match stands out… and not only for its sporting (and financial) stakes.
” As a Northern Irishman, playing against Rangers means a lot to me ” smiles Chris O’Loughlin, sitting in the departure area of Brussels Airport. ” In Northern Ireland everyone supports either Rangers or Celtic… and I come from the ‘Celtic Family’ : my cousins are fierce Celtic, my friends too and I myself attended several matches at Celtic Park. So yes, the Rangers are a bit of the enemy… (smile) The Celtic-Rangers duel has long been synonymous with religious rivalry between Catholics and Protestants, and these derbies remain rooted in community life. These are institutions, with family and even political customs… to the point of excess! There have been great players here, these matches are part of the romantic history of football… but the Union Saint-Gilloise is also part of this tradition! “
The start of hell is therefore announced at 8:45 p.m. Belgian time (7:45 p.m. in Scotland) at the Ibrox Stadium, the home of Rangers, which will be sold out (51,000 seats)
” I know this atmosphere well… and I can guarantee you that it will be hot! ” resumes the Saint-Gilles DT. ” The local fans will put a lot of pressure… but if we survive (sic) in the first 20 minutes, I think we will have possibilities. The key will be to stay calm: we have to build on what we did last Tuesday… even if it’s true, paradoxically, our good result on the first leg (NDLA : 2-0) increases the pressure to qualify. But you know, the pressure, we learned to manage it in these matches which were our peaks last year, in Bruges, Anderlecht or Antwerp: we did everything to be here and to play similar matches! But Rangers remain the favorites given the difference in budgets… and if our opponents don’t get a quick win, I can tell you that he and the public will start to get nervous! “