RIO FERDINAND insists he would not have agreed to bring an All-Star XI to Celtic Park unless guarantees were given that he would be able to enjoy another day in the company of one of his boyhood favourites, Paul McStay.
Ferdinand will bring a team north for a charity match on September 7 and spoke in an interview last night about his long-term admiration for McStay, who will return from his home in Sydney to lead the Celtic select providing the opposition, and the thrill he experienced from meeting him during a tour of Australia with Manchester United last summer.
"One of the guys who helps me run the Foundation is closely affiliated with a few of the guys at Celtic and an idea came about for me to bring an XI," said Ferdinand, currently looking for a new club after leaving Old Trafford. "I said I'd like to do it, but there was a stipulation that Paul McStay had to be involved.
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"He never got the respect and adulation he probably deserved, but I met him when he came to a training session in Australia when I was at United and I can see why. He is not one to put himself out there. We had finished training and I was getting a massage. He was walking around getting programmes signed with his kids and I said to the fella stretching me: 'That's Paul McStay'.
"He didn't have a clue. Jimmy Lumsden, a Scotsman, was a coach under David Moyes and I asked him: 'That's Paul McStay, isn't it?'
"I said: 'You've got to get me his autograph, get me a picture with him or something'. The lads were coming in and I was telling them they didn't even know who this geezer is, they were walking past him. I was telling them he was a top player and better than them. I had a good talk with Paul and his kids and took some pictures. I think his kids were surprised a couple of us knew who he was because Ryan [Giggs] stopped by as well."
Ferdinand claims he has followed Celtic since childhood and even manages to reflect with a degree of fondness on the 1-0 defeat suffered in Glasgow on Champions League duty in November 2006 thanks to a late free-kick from Shunsuke Nakamura.
"I have always seen them as the Man United of Scotland, almost," Ferdinand told Celtic TV. "I remember we played there in the Champions League. Just before the whistle went for the game to kick off, it was the biggest roar I have heard in a football stadium in my entire life."