John Colquhoun has urged supporters to ensure Sunday’s powderkeg showdown between Hearts and Celtic doesn’t boil over.
The two teams have developed one of the most toxic rivalries in Scottish football, with several unsavoury off-field incidents plaguing the fixture in recent seasons.
There is an increased sense of anticipation and intensity around this weekend’s encounter given that it will be the first league match between the teams in Edinburgh for almost two years and will be played during the festive period in front of a sell-out crowd. Colquhoun enjoys the hostility between his two former clubs, but insisted that it is imperative fans of both teams refrain from crossing the line of what is acceptable.
“It goes without saying that it’s important for fans to behave,” said the ex-Hearts and Celtic winger.
“It’s riding that balance between the hostility that’s acceptable and tipping over the edge to the stuff that isn’t.
“I played in the games, I attended the games and you can only appeal to people to behave.
“But you want them to support their team as that is what makes the fixture special. This is an amazing game because of the colours; you have the green and white hoops against the maroon.
“You have the Celtic fans behind a goal and the Hearts sections are a sell-out.
“It’ll be an amazing atmosphere. It’s the season of goodwill to all men and women – and I’m expecting it to be just the right level of hostility.
“You still need that edge. That’s what gets the atmosphere crackling, unless you lose two goals in the first ten minutes.”
Colquhoun expects Hearts and Celtic to serve up a thriller in what is now one of the most eye-catching fixtures on the Scottish calendar.
“Without Rangers and Hibs in the league, it’s as close as these two teams will get to a derby,” he said.
“You have Celtic-Aberdeen and Celtic-Hearts as the biggest games in the country now. Nobody would argue that Tynecastle is the best atmosphere in Scottish football. Sunday will be terrific.
“I expect it to be a cracking fixture and a cracking atmosphere.
“Hearts are further on than they thought they would be at this stage of the season.
“To be sitting third is beyond their expectations, but it will be difficult on Sunday.
“Celtic will come a little bit wounded after their recent results but they are still the best team in the country.”