LONG after his boots had been hung up, Henrik Larsson was gently persuaded into conversation about the many derby days he experienced in the colours of his various clubs.

There were a few of note he had been privy to with El Clasico in La Liga and the Dutch rivalry between Feyenoord and Ajax of obvious interest. Yet it was the Glasgow derby which he referenced as best and not simply to curry favour; the Swede would need little in the way of glib remarks to win a Celtic popularity contest.

The reason Larsson picked out the Celtic-Rangers rivalry as the most extraordinary he had experienced, the most enjoyable to win and the most devasting to lose, was not for the usual triteness of expression around the noise of the spectacle and the nature of the divide but rather because of the genuine intensity of the occasion. 

Referencing the games against Real Madrid as a Barcelona player, the Swede had commented on his surprise at the lack of tension within both stadia. A lack of visiting fans reduced and diluted the occasion so that it didn’t hold the same weight of what he had come to know as a derby and was his reason for framing the games between Celtic and Rangers as one of the great football occasions.

It is a discussion that came to mind this week on the back of the impending erosion of the red zones and the possibility of a step towards a more ‘normal’ football experience.

READ MORE: Facing Henrik Larsson: Celtic's magnificent seven as seen by the defenders he tormented

Bringing away fans into Celtic Park or Ibrox may feel like little more than a statistical nod given the numerical disadvantage they have in occupying such small pockets of the stadia. Regardless, it is a far more authentic contest with their presence.

In that respect, there is an interesting conversation to be had, an adult conversation if you will, about the return of visiting fans into the stadium when it is time to host the festive derby against Rangers.

Celtic fans will point out that they were locked of Ibrox at the end of August for the first meeting of the season and there is little doubt that no supporters within the ground enhances the intimidation factor for either side.

Yet it is inarguable that it also detracts from the game itself - something is lost in the process. The longer time goes on with both teams refusing to concede ground in this particular argument, the harder it will be to take the step back to what it was before.

There is, too, a moral high-ground to be gained for whichever club is strong enough to suggest the sensible call to make the spectacle one to be enjoyed or endured – delete as appropriate at full-time – by each set of supporters.

The percentages are small enough to ensure that the upper hand remains firmly with the hosting club. And ultimately it offers scope for one-upmanship before a ball is kicked.