PERHAPS Jock Stein’s most famous quote was when he opined that football without the fans is nothing. By extension, the Celtic great's argument could well be applied to how the lack of rival supporters present at Old Firm games this season has diminished the fixture, and what has made it unique.

Old Firm clashes over the years have been sold on the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic. The frenzied atmosphere, the deafening noise and the frequently unpalatable back-and-forth between the supporters. All of the colour and mayhem, warts and all.

So, having sampled the derby for many years from afar and then as a pundit, it is perhaps unsurprising that there is a tinge of disappointment in Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister’s tone when he discusses the prospect of just 750 Celtic supporters making their way to Ibrox for the next instalment in one of the world’s most famous rivalries on Saturday.

With the shoe on the other foot at Celtic Park in early September, he admits that despite the best efforts of the reduced contingent of Rangers fans present,the atmosphere is affected when the away allocation is cut.

“I’ve been to Old Firm games at both stadiums, and when there was opposing fans in there,” said McAllister. “I would look back to the game in Europe this year when Rapid Vienna brought however many they did into that corner, and it does make for a better atmosphere.

“I suppose it’s an opinion. The four or five hundred that were at Celtic Park earlier in the season, they made a lot of noise.

“I don’t know how many Celtic fans are coming, but I’ve got to say that we’re just really focusing [on St Johnstone] right now, and we will come to that.

“It’s a standalone game.”

Not that McAllister won’t take any advantage he can get in order to swing the tie Rangers’ way. He was part of a Leeds United team that came to Govan for the famous "Battle of Britain" in 1992, when he was blown away by the intimidating atmosphere created by a crowd composed solely of Rangers supporters.

On that occasion, the ban on away fans at both legs of the tie was a mutual decision, reluctantly agreed to by all parties on the grounds of safety after meetings between officials and police.

“It was bizarre, because my one massive vivid memory was that as the referee put his whistle to his mouth to start the game, I’ve never heard anything like it,” he said. “Ever, in any stadium across the world. I remember looking to Gordon Strachan, David Batty and Gary Speed, and the four of us just went ‘wow’.

“It was proper electric. I had a bit more hair back then, and there were bits standing on end.

“I scored after 54 seconds, and then that was bizarre [too], because it was proper silence. It was like; ‘what’s happened?’

“That lower enclosure next to the dugouts when I spun back there, they weren’t very complimentary about that goal.”

McAllister is hoping that two positive results against St Johnstone and Hibernian can give Rangers the momentum to go into the fixture against Celtic firing on all cylinders before taking a welcome break in the winter shutdown.

These three matches in the space of six days will leave Rangers having played 38 competitive games in the first half of the season, but McAllister is confident that they have the depth of squad to cope with the demands of their hectic schedule.

“I suppose it’s normal for the festive period, and it’s something that players have got to deal with and the management group as well,” he said.

“When you’ve not been involved in it for a few years, the demands are most definitely there. But it also gives you an opportunity to get a nice little run.

“We’ve got St Johnstone, Hibs and Celtic, and if you can get a nice run until the end of the year going into that winter break, it could be good.

“What we have done during this heavy schedule is not look too far ahead. After the trip to Easter Road we have just been totally focused on this trip to Perth.

“It’s as big as the one on the 29th, there’s no doubt about that. This St Johnstone game is big, because if we can start a run over this next three, you don’t know where we could be come the winter break.”