An attack on a Celtic fan by a Rangers supporter on a coach near Douglas could have sparked a major sectarian disturbance.
However, other Old Firm fans were commended at Lanark Sheriff Court last Thursday for stepping in to prevent the violent incident escalating.
This praise came from the solicitor acting for Rangers fan Simon Ingram, 44, who appeared for sentence after admitting that, on December 2 on the M74 near to Cairn Lodge Services, he assaulted Ryan Thibodeau by headbutting him on the chest and punching him in the head, an act aggravated by religious prejudice.
He also admitted that, as the coach was transporting supporters home from a game, he had breached the Offensive Behaviour at a Football Match (Scotland) Act by shouting, swearing and making sectarian remarks.
Depute fiscal Vish Kathuria explained that Mr Thibodeau was a Celtic fan from Northern Ireland currently studying in Scotland and he had gone with friends to that day’s Motherwell v Celtic match at Fir Park.
The train which would have taken them home was cancelled and a replacement coach laid on. The coach was also boarded by a group of Rangers fans, Ingram among them.
As the vehicle neared Cairn Lodge, Ingram, obviously intoxicated, walked past the Celtic fans in the aisle and turned round to shout: “No surrender. No surrender to the IRA.”
He then reached out to Mr Thibodeau with both hands and the Celtic fan stood up to fend him off; Ingram, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, then head-butted him in the chest and punched him just below the left eye.
Other Rangers supporters on the coach intervened and pulled Ingram away. The alarmed coach driver called the police and when officers arrived Ingram, a first offender, immediately expressed his shame at what he’d done.
The solicitor acting for Ingram, Mr Archie Hill, told the court: “I have to commend both sets of fans on the bus for their actions in preventing what was a heated exchange becoming a serious disturbance on public transport.”
He went on to say that his client had “never behaved in this manner before in his life and has expressed remorse throughout.”
Sheriff Robert Weir told Ingram that he had “regressed into behaviour that is distressingly familiar in this part of the world.”
He orderedhim to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and banned him from all UK football matches for a year.