HUNDREDS of Scottish football fans ignored pleas by Nicola Sturgeon and the Old Firm team managers not to travel to English pubs and watch the first Celtic and Rangers match of the season.

Supporters crossed the border to Cumbria to watch the derby on television while the two teams played inside at an empty Parkhead stadium.

Crowds headed to bars in Carlisle yesterday despite the First Minister and managers of both the teams asking them to stay at home. 

Some went by train - again defying the First Minister's requests not to travel by public transport unless making essential journeys.

According to reports in a Sunday newspaper today most of the supporters who made the journey were from the central belt – which is in the middle of a 16-day lockdown to slow down the spread of Covid-19 and where licensed premises are closed.

Rangers fan Tommy Law, 61, of Glasgow’s Easterhouse, was originally going to travel to Blackpool to watch the game before changing his mind.

He told the Sunday Mail: “I got to watch my team win a match and had a couple of beers. It was a great day. There was nothing Nicola Sturgeon was going to say to change my mind.”

Celtic fan Eammon Hood, 55, who travelled from Kilbirnie to Carlisle, told the paper:  “The pub was full by the time I got here. I miss going to football but also the pub atmosphere to watch games. It was good to get that again.”

At Australian-themed bar Walkabout in Carlisle, they had capacity for 140 people to watch both the Old Firm game and the Merseyside derby. But manager Carol Carruthers said the Scottish Premiership fixture was on three of their four TVs.

She told the Sunday Mail: “Almost everyone in the pub is a Scot, at least 80%. The vast majority are Rangers fans. Some people ended up having to watch the game through the window in the beer garden because there was no room.”

Just three pubs in the city centre - The Griffin owned by Greene King, The Cumberland Inn and pub chain Walkabout decided to show the match which was broadcast live on Sky. All were packed, with one manager claiming almost 100 per cent of his customers had travelled from Scotland to watch the match on his big screen.

The First Minister asked fans not to travel to England to watch the match in licensed premises and help curb rising Covid-19 cases being reported across the UK. She was backed by Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers boss Steven Gerard, who also pleaded with supporters to remain at home.

Tight restrictions apply in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley health board zones, which have seen pubs across the five health board areas of Scotland shut until October 26.

It had been feared fans would head to Carlisle and Blackpool. But they decided not to make their way to Blackpool after Lancashire was placed in England’s top tier of coronavirus measures, which also closed most of its pubs.