Billy McNeill: Celtic legend and ‘Lisbon Lions’ captain dies, aged 79
A statement from McNeill’s family confirmed the former defender, who has been suffering with dementia for a number of years, passed away on Monday night.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill,” the statement read. “He passed away late last night (Monday, April 22) surrounded by his family and loved ones. He suffered from Dementia for a number of years and fought bravely to the end, showing the strength and fortitude he always has done throughout his life.
“We would also like to note our love and appreciation to our mother, Liz, for the care, devotion and love she gave to our father throughout his illness. No one could have done any more.
“Whilst this is a very sad time for all the family and we know our privacy will be respected, our father always made time for the supporters so please tell his stories, sing his songs and help us celebrate his life.”
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McNeill, who spent his entire career with Celtic, is by all definitions of the word, a legend.
He made 822 appearances for the Hoops across 18 seasons, winning nine league championships, seven Scottish Cups, six Scottish League Cups, and that famous European Cup in 1967.
The Parkhead club won every competition they entered that season, with Jock Stein’s side – who are now known as the ‘Lisbon Lions’ – becoming the first British team to win the European Cup.
McNeill, as captain, became the first British footballer to lift the famous trophy after a 2-1 defeat of Helenio Herrera’s Internazionale in Portugal.
Celtic were unable to repeat their European success three years later, despite reaching the final of the competition for the second time. Feyenoord came from behind to beat the Bhoys, becoming the first Dutch club to be crowned Europe’s best team.
McNeill played for another five seasons after the second European Cup final, winning nine more domestic trophies before hanging up his boots in 1975.
A couple of years later McNeill began his coaching career with Clyde, moving to Aberdeen in 1977, and then a year later returning to Celtic.
He guided his former side to five more trophies during a five-year spell as boss, and then helped Manchester City win promotion from England’s second division throughout a three-year stay.
McNeill went on to spend time with Aston Villa before returning to Celtic for a less successful second spell in charge, and his departure in 1991 ended his involvement in football until he was appointed Hibernian caretaker manager for a short time in 1998.
McNeill was made an MBE in 1974 and was voted Celtic’s greatest ever captain by supporters in 2002.
A statue of McNeill holding the European Cup aloft was erected outside Celtic Park just over three years ago, while just last week LaLiga side Athletic Club named McNeill as one of the winners of their ‘One Club Man’ award – an honour bestowed upon just five players.
RIP Billy McNeill (1940-2019)
Source: SportsLatest TS