Celtic pub attack victim: 'I don’t even know if I have a smile anymore'

Celtic pub attack victim: 'I don’t even know if I have a smile anymore'

THURSDAY night wasn’t the best for Celtic fans as they were knocked out of the Europa League by a 2-1 loss at home to Ajax.

Sadly, though, it wasn’t just the result that put a dampener on things as reports began to flood social media about a violent attack in Glasgow’s Gallowgate area before the game even got underway.

To those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is home to a number of Celtic pubs and where many supporters congregate before, during and after a game. Police confirmed on Friday that just four men had been arrested in connection with 'minor public order offences', only one of which was before the game.

The Hoops Bar, a popular destination for many fans, was one of the first reportedly hit. Images of a number of casualties soon surfaced, one being of 37-year-old Hoops Bar owner Neil O’Donnell.

The Glaswegian told The Irish Post his version of events from Thursday night: “Everything I have been talking about has been from other people telling me what happened. I don’t remember anything other than turning up at work and then I remember the singer going on, but I lost about five hours of memory.

“I’m the last pub coming into the city centre end. They attacked the Emerald Isle and done a bit of damage, but I always have stewards on the door so they managed to see them coming and locked the two front doors, but obviously some of the folk inside the pub realised what was happening and were trying to get out the side door.

“So, me being me, I went out the side door and tried to get everybody back in and then spotted the coppers who were sitting across the road watching them.

“I think it was two coppers that came and got me from underneath about six of their feet. Apparently I was unconscious at the time. First thing I remember is coming around in the hospital.

“I have a fractured cheekbone but I think it’s been fractured in five or six different places and nerve damage I don’t even know if I have a smile anymore, the iron bar practically went right through my face – that’s what ruptured all the nerves in my cheek.

“I’m fine now, but I’ve a bit of hurt pride, maybe the fact that so much happened and I don’t remember is a bit alarming. I have just been for an X-ray so I’m just waiting on the doctors to come in and do their rounds and check them and hopefully sign me out.

“Then I need to come back and get my stitches out, but I’m still alive and kicking.”

Last week, loud bangs – believed to be gun shots – were heard on the Gallowgate while Irish rebel music band The Wolfe Tones were performing at the Barrowland Ballroom.

I was at that show myself and Neil has pointed out the lack of police presence in the city on Thursday night, compared to the number deployed for the gig last weekend.

He said: “Rachel, you were there the weekend before for The Wolfe Tones, and you seen the amount of police that were on that street.

“I don’t want to upset anyone but I’m annoyed. A couple of riot vans sitting in the right place would have avoided all that. The fact that so many of them [Ajax fans] were able to gather together and make it down the Gallowgate is astonishing to me.”

Anyone who has been to a bar down the Gallowgate will find the lack of police outside The Hoops Bar on Thursday rather alarming.

When I was over for the Scotland vs Ireland game last November, police not only sat right outside the door – they also had random walk-ins throughout the bar to double-check everything was above board.

I'm baffled as to what sort of threat the Irish and Scots posed together while inside or indeed outside the pub.

The real question, though, is why were the police not prepared for trouble around that area of Glasgow on Thurday night? They should have been well aware of the threat Ajax supporters posed especially after the trouble Celtic fans met when they travelled to Amsterdam back in 2013.

Back then, Celtic fans were attacked by Dutch hooligans. Windows and tables were smashed when thugs stormed a pub in the city’s notorious Red Light District, where dozens of Hoops supporters were drinking.

Everyone knew there was a chance of a repeat situation in Glasgow ahead of the game on Thursday.

Yes, there was a heavy police presence a couple of hundred meters down from where the attack on Neil took place, but how did so many of these thugs get by them and manage to attack a full pub of supporters?

It beggars belief.