Nanny MacPhee encapsulates what football should be all about

The photo snapped by DK MacPhee of his delighted mother, Catriona, smiling broadly as she savoured her surroundings at Celtic Park will live long in the memory of her family. A magical moment in time captured for ever.
Nanny MacPhee – at a sprightly 89 – lapping it all up at her beloved Celtic ParkNanny MacPhee – at a sprightly 89 – lapping it all up at her beloved Celtic Park
Nanny MacPhee – at a sprightly 89 – lapping it all up at her beloved Celtic Park

89-year-old Catriona MacPhee – Catriona Ruaraidh Iain who was brought up in Cille Brighde South Uist – was smitten by Celtic when she attended her first live football match on 6th August 1966. It was, mind you, some match.

Jock Stein’s young team, that would be immortalised in Lisbon the following year, swept aside a Manchester United that included George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton 4 – 1. By all accounts, Matt Busby’s team, who would go on to European glory themselves in 1968, were lucky the score did not end in further humiliation.

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That summer’s evening in Glasgow, Busby’s Babes were taught a lesson and Catriona MacPhee with her eldest son, DK aged six drank it all in,

DK reminisced: “We didn’t know it at the time, but we had watched the Lisbon Lions against Busby’s Babes. And Celtic won. I loved it. My mother loved it.”

Back in 1960’s South Uist, Catriona would have caught the occasional grainy glimpse of Celtic on the first black and white tv sets that came to the island. But her interest in the team was kept alive by her husband and growing family who were devoted fans.

Local football was a large part of their routine. Her husband, John, who had played for South End, rarely missed a game.

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Her sons, along with her nephews, John Joe, Jinky and Owdy MacIsaac became the backbone of the team and the whole family went to watch them every Sunday afternoon.

Last weekend “Nanny MacPhee” was back at Celtic Park for a family lunch and stadium tour with two of her boys, DK and Ally, DK’s wife Fiona and their son Danny.

A trip down memory lane for a fan who now doesn’t miss a match on her satellite TV in the village of Leth Mheadhanach. During a lifetime of supporting Celtic, she has witnessed the ebb and flow of success and failure and the changes that have altered the complexion of the Scottish game beyond recognition.

Catriona’s first heroes became household names when they won every competition they entered in 1966-67, including the European Cup, the first British team to do so.

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Simpson, Craig, Gemmill, Murdoch, McNeil, Clark, Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Lennox were superstars who humbled the best teams in Europe, but they often walked back from the training field, mingling with fans.

As she approaches her 90th birthday Catriona is now having to get her Gaelic tongue around the names of several Japanese stars who have arrived at Celtic Park with their Australian manager Ange Postecoglou. In the 60s she fell in love a team led by a former miner and every player born within a few miles of the stadium.

Nowadays her team, like so many others in Scotland, is a multilingual, multinational squad where Scottish players are in the minority. But this has not dimmed her enthusiasm.

She loves the polite influence of the Japanese imports. Kyogo Furuhashi’s speed, smiles and rapier finishing has made him a particular favourite and Catriona now has a photo of herself beside his strip in the Celtic changing room.

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She also smiled broadly beside life-size images of club captain Calum McGregor and James Forrest, two Scottish players she admires for not being tempted away by money.

During the daily bickering over VAR, rows about vile sectarian chants and the unpleasant excesses of pampered millionaire footballers it is easy to forget there are millions of fans like Catriona who love to watch football, support their team and recognise the quality players they can admire.

This is what football should be about.