Club's greatest-ever captain
Celtic’s Lisbon legend Billy McNeill dies aged 79
Legend: Billy McNeill (pic: SNS Group)
Celtic legend Billy McNeill, the first British player to lift the European Cup, has died at the age of 79.
Affectionately known as ‘Cesar’, he led the Glasgow club to European glory in Lisbon in 1967 when Celtic defeated the much-fancied Inter Milan 2-1.
McNeill spent 18 years at the club, joining in 1957 and bowing out in 1975. He made his first-team debut on 23 August, 1958 in a home win over Clyde in the League Cup, while his final appearance came on 3 May, 1975 when he captained Celtic to victory over Airdrie in the Scottish Cup Final.
During his illustrious playing career, he made 790 competitive appearances for the Hoops, more than any other player in Celtic’s history, and scored 34 goals.
McNeill captained the team during the golden era of the late 1960s and early ’70s under the management of Jock Stein, winning nine league titles in a row, seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups.
Three years after hanging up his boots he returned as manager, winning the league title in his first season in charge. The following year he won the Scottish Cup before back-to-back championship wins in 1981 and 1982.
He left Celtic in 1983, and managed both Manchester City and then Aston Villa before returning to Parkhead in 1987 for the start of the club’s centenary season, steering Celtic to a league and Scottish Cup double. The following season saw Celtic retain the Scottish Cup.
McNeill left Celtic again in 1991. In 2009, he became a club ambassador, while six years later, in December 2015, a statue of him holding aloft the European Cup was erected at the front of the stadium.
Awarded an MBE in 1974, he was capped 29 times for his country and was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Paying tribute to their former captain, the club said in a statement: “The Celtic family is mourning the death of Billy McNeill, the club’s greatest-ever captain and one of the finest men to have played and managed the Hoops, who has passed away at the age of 79. The wider football family, too, will be in mourning at the loss of this great man.
“Celtic Football Club’s deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers go to Billy’s wife, Liz, their children, Susan, Paula, Libby, Carol and Martyn, grandchildren and all his many family and friends at the extremely sad time.
“Billy McNeill was a Celtic player, manager and ambassador. First and foremost, however, he was always a Celtic supporter and his love for the club was evident throughout his life.”