THERE was much made of the fact that Celtic travelled to face Rangers for the recent Old Firm derby without any of their supporters in tow, save for the handful of coaching staff and those in blazers in the directors’ box.

But that wasn’t quite accurate. Deep within the bowels of Ibrox’s Main Stand, in the media room, was at least one more man cheering on the men in green and white. And before any Rangers supporters of a paranoid nature get in touch, it wasn’t a journalist.

That is where Nat Phillips, recent Celtic recruit on loan from Liverpool, was stationed to watch the match, the game coming a little too soon for him to feature. It was decided, perhaps wisely, that a seat among the home support with his club tracksuit on probably wasn’t the best idea either.

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From there, he followed the highs and lows and ebbs and flows of the dramatic encounter through the noise of the crowd. And then, a few seconds later, he saw what the rest of the 50,000 packed into the stadium had just witnessed via the big screens on the walls of the media centre.

“I was at Ibrox - I just couldn’t go out into the stand,” Phillips said.

“I was in the dressing room beforehand and at half-time and the end of the game to be amongst it all. But for the match itself I watched it on TV in the media room.

“I could still hear the atmosphere from in there. It was an entertaining game to watch and quite intense at the end. But it was great to be there to support the boys.

“The TV was about four or five seconds behind the action, right enough. At one point I could hear cheers and people came into the room to watch the replays - then it was disallowed!

“It whetted the appetite to play in a game like that. But at the same time I didn’t really need my appetite whetting any more.

“Seeing that game, and being in amongst it, just gave me a taste of what’s to come.”

Phillips already had a fair idea of what to expect, mind you, given that his father Jimmy represented the blue half of Glasgow for a season in the late 80s.

Phillips Snr though doesn’t hold a grudge that his son has grasped an opportunity to turn out for his former club’s great rivals.

“He’s just excited for me,” he said.

“He’s had his career and now I have mine - and they are two separate things. My dad wants me to be playing games at a high level and that’s what I’ll hopefully be doing at Celtic.

“The only advice he gave me was to say he played for Rangers so I’d be asked about it! But there was no specific advice in terms of Glasgow itself.

“He’ll be coming up to visit and I know he enjoyed living in the city. But generally, my dad, when we speak about my career, it’s mainly in a game-by-game basis. I’ll chat to him after games to see what he thought.

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“But in terms of the move itself he thought it was a great one for me.”

Phillips arrives in Glasgow as something of an unfulfilled talent, having struggled to nail down a regular place in the Liverpool side – nothing to be ashamed about when the likes of Virgil van Dijk are ahead of you in the pecking order.

At 26 now, he is hoping to show what he has to offer at Celtic on a more consistent basis, but he does bring with him a decent amount of big-game experience from his time at Anfield.

There is one match more than any other that gets mentioned to him, when he was a standout up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Liverpool won against AC Milan in the San Siro in the Champions League back in 2021.

It is also personally notable for an outrageous piece of skill he produced to send Ibrahimovic to the shops, something that it is put to him must be a highlight in his career to date.

“I think it’s definitely a highlight for people who speak to me, because it always gets brought up!” he said.

“For me, at the time I was just glad to get out of the trouble in the game situation. It was only after the game when people were coming up to me and talking about it that I thought it must have looked half decent!

“But it wasn’t a scenario where I thought before it ‘Oh, I’m going to send him the wrong way’. I was going to whack it out of play, and he’s gone to block it, so it was more of an instinctive move.

“He didn’t say anything to me about it, and I wouldn’t like to ask!

“I fractured my cheekbone in that game off the back of his head, I think it might have been after that!

“I was sort of behind him and he’s gone to flick it on, I’ve gone through the back, and he’s flicked his head back.

“There’s a nice picture where you can see a big dent in my face!”

He has though managed – as yet – to avoid getting a sore face from his famously pugnacious father-in-law, Liam Gallagher, having dated the daughter of the former Oasis frontman, Molly, for some time now.

Even with his Liverpool links, he seems to have hit it off with the mad for Manchester City rocker.

“We’ve never really got into that,” he said.

“We have obviously met but only a few times. Every time I’ve met him, he’s been fine with me, which is ideal as a son-in-law.”