Jimmy Nicholl, of course, is a Northern Ireland legend.
owever, he’s also a huge favourite at Old Trafford and Ibrox, and the Belfast-man will be a keen viewer when two of his old clubs, Manchester United and Rangers, clash in the Champions League tomorrow night.
Nicholl, who played nearly 200 times for Manchester United and had two spells at the Teddy Bears, is anticipating an enthralling encounter and when it comes to the crunch, it’s his loyalty to the Scottish game that has him pinning his colours to the mast.
“I always look forward to big European games, especially when United and Rangers are involved,” said Nicholl, who recently took up the manager’s post at Scottish First Division side Cowdenbeath.
“There’s just something a bit extra special about them
“I’m hoping that Rangers do well. Working in Scotland, it would give the game up here a great boost
“I think it will be a close game. Rangers will try to make it as tight as possible, try to keep the ball and hit United on the break through Kenny Miller, who always carries a goal threat.”
It is clear that Nicholl still has a strong affection for both clubs.
At United, he was in the side that won the FA Cup in 1977 under Tommy Docherty before winning two league titles at Ibrox.
“I had some great times at both clubs. Their fan bases are immense and they’re were I had the best years of my career,” he said.
The managers at the helm at both clubs are two of the most successful in British football history.
And Nicholl holds both Walter Smith and Sir Alex Ferguson in the highest of esteem, both as managers and as people.
“I’m full of admiration for Walter. He gave me my first job in coaching at Rangers, I had three years under him and I’ll be forever grateful. He’s a manager who really knows how to get the best out of his players,” said Nicholl.
Ferguson also made a great impression on the Rathcoole man.
“Me and Jimmy Calderwood (whom Nicholl was assistant manager to for 11 years) went on a tour of all the top clubs to learn about coaching methods and how they went about things,” he said.
“And when we went to Manchester United, Sir Alex just brilliant with us. He had breakfast and lunch with us and I learnt so much just from listening to him.”
Nicholl was in awe of what he saw at United’s famous Carrington training facility and admitted to having been taken aback by the intensity and tempo that these world-class players showed, even against each other.
“The atmosphere Alex has created amongst his players is magnificent. The training was just brilliant to watch,” he observed.
“You despair at getting some players to train these days, but the United boys were going at it full pelt. They were rattling into each other. Evans was smacking into Rooney and Rooney was giving it back to Evans. And this was just a few days before a match.”
Nicholl, then, will know more than most how fired up United will be going into this latest challenge, even if many will see it as a game the Premier League giants should win comfortably.
And the 53-year-old, having just moved house, will sit back in the comfort of his local to watch the action unfold.
“My wife and I are living in a rented flat in Stirling at the minute, and we’ve got no Sky television. It’s an excuse to go to the pub though,” he said.