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Former Rangers star Steven Whittaker looking forward to being cheered on at Celtic Park


Steven Whittaker limped off in the first half of Norwich's friendly with Celtic

Steven Whittaker limped off in the first half of Norwich's friendly with Celtic


Steven Whittaker limped off in the first half of Norwich's friendly with Celtic

Steven Whittaker looks forward to an evening of role reversal when Scotland take on the Republic of Ireland at Celtic Park on Friday night.

The Norwich City defender will have the vast majority of the 60,000 crowd on his side as Gordon Strachan's men look to take a significant step towards qualifying for the 2016 European Championships.

However, as a Rangers player before he moved to Carrow Road in 2012, Whittaker was understandably given no encouragement by the home fans during Old Firm games at Parkhead, with Ireland winger Aiden McGeady one of his Hoops' opponents on several occasions.

While the 30-year-old Canaries player will occupy the home dressing room at Celtic Park, Scots-born McGeady, now at Everton, will be the visitor, providing just one of several intriguing sub-plots in what is a fascinating Group D fixture.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Strachan are both former Celtic bosses, while Republic assistant Roy Keane and captain Robbie Keane are both former Hoops players.

Whittaker, set to play right-back in the absence of the injured Alan Hutton and Phil Bardsley, noted a "different feel" to the fixture.

"I think that is why it is being built up to be this huge spectacle," he said.

"It is not normal but both sets of players will be determined to win the match.

"Aiden is not the only one who we have to look out for, they have a few quality players in attacking areas of the park.

"I have come up against Aiden before and I have enjoyed the matches and it is something to look forward to on Friday night.

"It will be a bit different but it is obviously an arena that I am comfortable playing in.

"I am looking forward to the game, I think the atmosphere will be great."

With so much familiarity between the two camps, Whittaker expects a "British" flavour to the encounter.

However, the former Hibernian player insists Scotland will be focusing mostly on their own strategy and performance.

He said: "It will have a different feel to what you are (normally) up against in international fixtures.

"Obviously we play against a lot of their players who play in the Premier league and the Championship.

"But we have not tended to concentrate too much on the opposition.

"The manager has got us thinking about what we are doing and how we are going to create danger so, with it being a home game, we are definitely looking to be the more positive."

After three rounds of fixtures, Ireland lead Scotland by three points with O'Neill's side buoyant from a 1-1 draw away to Germany in their last game, the same night the Scots fought out an encouraging 2-2 draw in Poland.

Whittaker believes both teams are "evenly matched" but is looking for the Scots to collect all three points and keep their momentum going.

"It is a big game and the outcome of the result is going to be massive," he said.

"There are still a lot of matches to be played after this so, if you don't get the result in this match, I don't think it will stop you getting where you want to go.

"But it is definitely one that we want to win to keep the momentum in the campaign going in the right direction.

"We are at home and we are very positive going into the match."

Online Editors

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