John Robertson hopes the Highland derby avoids anything like the ugly scenes that marred the end of Wednesday’s Edinburgh clash between Hearts and Hibernian.
Caley Thistle boss Robertson was in attendance at Tynecastle, where Hibernian manager Neil Lennon was struck by a pound coin, Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was punched by a supporter and two assistant referees were assaulted.
Tomorrow’s Highland equivalent descends on the Caledonian Stadium, with Ross County facing the Caley Jags in their own back yard. There have been flashpoints in the past but the relationship between the supporters has Robertson believing any incidents of violence can be avoided.
He said: “It is a fierce rivalry, but in all the right ways. I’m not for one minute saying otherwise, but we don’t get what we saw at Tynecastle. I would be incredulous if you got coins thrown or somebody punched at a Highland derby. There has never been anything like that before and, hopefully, there never is.
“Fans travel to the game together on the train. They drink in the same pubs together before the game. They mix outside before they go to their separate ends. Afterwards, they’ll meet up again and get on with it.
“Yes, there will always be one or two small elements in the supports, but while it is fierce and competitive it is all about bragging rights and who is doing what on the day. Long may that continue because the relationship between the clubs and the fans up here is very good.”
Lennon was understandably furious in the aftermath of Wednesday night, calling on the perpetrator to meet him face-to-face. His Jambos counterpart Craig Levein also condemned the behaviour of the individuals, with Police Scotland making two arrests yesterday over the assault on the linesmen.
The Caley Jags and County have come through the leagues together and that has helped harness the rivalry between the two clubs, with both in the top flight of Scottish football until 2017.
Robertson added: “When you see the scenes in Edinburgh last night, thank goodness our derbies, our rivalries don’t get to that point where its absolute mayhem. Our derbies are what they are – rivalries. Both sets of fans, managers, players want to win it.
“Afterwards, it isn’t the end of the world – although it feels like it for a few hours. Don’t under-estimate how much we want to win it. You like to have bragging rights on your neighbours, the one upmanship.
“Part of the frustration of our fans just now is they see County sitting up above us at the top of the table and realise had we turned some of these draws to wins we’d be right next to them.”