WHEN Shane Duffy pulls on the Celtic jersey in a match for the first time, it won’t only be an emotional occasion for him due to his lifelong adoration of the club. The man who instilled that love for Celtic into him will be very much at the forefront of his mind.

Sadly, Duffy’s father Brian passed away unexpectedly at the age of just 53 in May, and so won’t get to see the boy he took to Celtic Park as a kid turn out for his heroes.

The decision to come to Celtic was always going to be an easy one for Duffy when the chance arose, but he admits that honouring his father factored in his thinking as he made the call. And now he is determined to do everything he can to make his entire family proud by bringing success to Celtic this season.

“Dad passed away four months ago,” said Duffy. “I was emotional when it got done because he was everything to me with my football. It was me and him.

“It was emotional last week [too], it was the first Ireland match he missed. And he won’t be at my first Celtic match. So, I’ll be emotional when I finally get to play. I will just do it for him.

“My family are very, very close to me and they trust what I’m doing with my own career.

“My Da passed away, and he would have had a big say in what I would have done, but he loved Celtic as well, so as soon as it came up it was a no-brainer.

“That was in my thoughts, and it was hard for my mum because she was wondering if it was going to happen or if it wasn’t.

“Eventually I got the call that it was done, so she was a bit emotional.”

Fans of course can see through the disingenuous clichés that players sometimes trot out about their new club ‘being the only team they ever wanted to play for’, but in Duffy’s case, the passion and the feeling for Celtic is obviously genuine.

His trips to Celtic Park as a youngster with his father and his uncle have been replaying in his mind these last few days, as he gears up to realise his boyhood dream.

“It really is [a dream],” he said. “You doubt that it could happen, so to actually get here and get the kit on is a special moment.

“My Ma went through a few quid on tops when I was a kid, I had them all up until I was about 12 or 13, then moved over to England when I was 14.

“In Ireland you get the boat over, and we came to the match, and I’ve got very fond memories.

“I just remember it being so loud, and I thought it was mental. I was probably more worried about the ice-cream or something rather than the result.

“It was an adventure, it was like going to Butlin’s. We’d get the boat over for the weekend then the boat back.

“We’d do it maybe a couple of times a year as a family. It was good the very first time he took me to a match, it was class.

“My first game I think was Aberdeen, with my Da, my Uncle. They brought me here. I would have been eight or nine.

“I’ve been to a few to be fair, but the last time I was here we got beat 5-0 off PSG, so that wasn’t great.”

For Celtic fans of Duffy’s generation – the defender is 28 – there is one man who dominates the conversation when it comes to choosing an all-time favourite from their time watching the side. For Duffy though, huge admirer of Henrik Larsson as he was, there was only one man for the back of those tops his mother used to buy, and that name may hint at the no-nonsense approach the Celtic supporters can expect from their new arrival.

“I loved big Bobo (Balde) when he played for Celtic,” Duffy said. “That’s probably my first fond memory of properly supporting Celtic.

“I had Bobo Balde on the back of my top. Balde six, I think it was, the yellow top.

“Everyone loved big Bobo, didn’t they? I just went along with it, you don’t really study football when you’re that age, do you?

“Everyone else was Larsson, but I was big Bobo.

“I was always dead tall and skinny, but I filled out more when I went to England. I was always good at heading the football, I’d throw myself at anything. It was a bit stupid. Big Bobo could head it too.”

That’s not to say that Duffy can’t play with his feet though, and he was keen to stress that he is able and willing to slot seamlessly into a back three alongside Chris Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer should Celtic manager Neil Lennon revert to the 3-5-2 formation which brought such success in the second half of last season.

“I’m very comfortable,” he said. “It’s just people’s opinions. I don’t listen, except to the ones that matter.

“The first game of last season, [Brighton] won 3-0 away at Watford with a back three.

“People have their opinions on me, which is allowed. I’m more than comfortable playing in a back three. I actually quite enjoy it. You’ve got two other centre-halves beside you.

“The thing with a back three is that you have to work on it. You can’t just go, ‘right, we’re going to play a back three this week’. It doesn’t work because you have to have the right players to play the system.

“I don’t really know what the manager’s thoughts are yet, [but] I’m comfortable playing in a back three.”