Celtic call off Old Firm derby after O'Donnell tragedy

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Tomorrow's Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead has been postponed as a mark of respect for Phil O'Donnell, the Motherwell captain and former Celtic midfielder who died on Saturday after collapsing on the pitch.

The cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but it is suspected that O'Donnell, 35, had a brain seizure.

The derby was called off after a request from Celtic, for whom O'Donnell played for five years in the 1990s. Motherwell had already postponed two of their own games: tomorrow's against Hibernian and Sunday's home match against Celtic. Gretna's game with St Mirren tomorrow is also off because Gretna play their home matches at Motherwell's ground, Fir Park, which has become a temporary shrine to O'Donnell.

Iain Blair, of the Scottish Premier League, said: "These are never easy decisions but we recognise that, as a former player, Phil was part of Celtic's extended football family. After consultation with Rangers, we agreed to postpone the Old Firm fixture."

Celtic's captain, Stephen McManus, said: "A number of our squad have very close connections to Phil's family and feel it would be inappropriate to proceed with this match after such a tragic event. We understand the inconvenience and frustration a postponement would cause supporters, particularly those who travel long distances to games and we fully respect the views of all fans on this matter.

"However, we feel that this would be the only correct decision. I hope that supporters would understand our position."

The Rangers manager, Walter Smith, said: "I don't think you can think about playing. All that matters is we show a proper degree of sympathy to his family."

No dates have yet been arranged for the postponed fixtures to be played. Three other SPL games tomorrow will go ahead. Dundee United, Motherwell's opponents in the game in which O'Donnell collapsed, will host Heart of Midlothian, while Aberdeen will play Inverness and Kilmarnock will host Falkirk.

Aberdeen's manager, Jimmy Calderwood, said yesterday: "It would have been better if they had called off all of the games. We all want to win, but when you see the footage of Celtic Park and Fir Park yesterday then you are not really thinking about football."