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Home: All Other Football Interests: Obituaries and Remembrances:
Billy McNeill (Blantyre Vics, Celtic, Scotland)


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Apr 23, 2019, 9:11 AM

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Billy McNeill (Blantyre Vics, Celtic, Scotland) Can't Post or Reply Privately

has died aged 79.

Captain of the 1967 European Cup winners.


(This post was edited by PaulC on Apr 23, 2019, 9:17 AM)

John Treleven
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Apr 23, 2019, 10:28 AM

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Re: [PaulC] Billy McNeill (Blantyre Vics, Celtic, Scotland) [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

McNEILL, William "Billy"

born 2nd March 1940 Bellshill, Scotland
died Monday 22nd April 2019, aged 79

1957 Blantyre Victoria
19571975 Celtic

19611972 Scotland 29/3
19611967 Scottish League XI 9/0

1977 Clyde
19771978 Aberdeen
19781983 Celtic
19831986 Manchester City
19861987 Aston Villa
19871991 Celtic
1998 Hibernian (caretaker)

Awarded M.B.E. 1974

McNeill captained the "Lisbon Lions" to their European Cup victory in 1967. As a player and manager combined, he won 31 major trophies with Celtic.

He holds the club record for most appearances, a total of 822 games over 18 seasons.

He was captain during their most successful era in the 1960s and 70s. The club won nine consecutive Scottish league championships and thirteen other major domestic trophies in this time, and in 1967 became the first British club to win the European Cup.

McNeill managed Celtic to four Scottish league championships including a league and cup double in 198788, the club's centenary season.

He was given the nickname Cesar after the actor Cesar Romero.

Celtic did not win a trophy his first eight years there.

In 1965 they won the Scottish Cup and McNeill was named Scottish Footballer of the Year, the first year it was awarded.

With McNeill as captain Celtic won nine Scottish League championships in a row, as well as seven Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups.

He retired as a player in 1975 after a record 822 appearances for Celtic, in which he played every minute of the games he started, never having been substituted.

After retiring as a player, McNeill began coaching Celtic Boys Club's under 16 team. He began his management career at Clyde in April 1977, before moving to Aberdeen in June, having been recommended to the club by Jock Stein.

Moving to Aberdeen, in his one season in charge, 197778, McNeill led Aberdeen to runners-up finishes in the league and Scottish Cup.

Second was their best finish since 1972, and three places above Stein's Celtic. However, in 1978 Stein left Celtic, and identified McNeill as his successor. McNeill left Aberdeen after only 11 months to be succeeded by Alex Ferguson.

In McNeill's first season as Celtic manager he transformed the club's fortunes winning the League championship famously beating Rangers 4-2 with ten men on the last day of the season to clinch the title.

His five years in charge saw Celtic win three League championships, in 1978-79, 198081 and 198182, the Scottish Cup in 1979-80 and the League Cup in 1982-83.

McNeill is credited with developing young players for Celtic who became key players for the club through the 1980s.

However McNeill found working with Celtic's chairman difficult. Despite Celtic's successes he was paid less than the managers of Aberdeen, Dundee United, Rangers and St. Mirren.

When chairman Desmond White sold Charlie Nicholas to Arsenal, against McNeill's wishes, McNeill took up the offer to manage Manchester City.

He secured promotion for City after two seasons in charge, and oversaw survival in their first season back in the First Division.

In 198687, he became one of the few managers to manage two relegated teams in the same season; he started the season as manager of Manchester City but quit in September 1986 to take charge of fellow strugglers Aston Villa. When Villa were relegated, after finishing bottom of the First Division in May 1987, he stood down and was replaced by Graham Taylor.

He then returned to Celtic, and in his first season, 1987-88, the club won the League Championship and Scottish Cup double in their centenary year. Celtic won the Scottish Cup the following season, defeating Rangers 1-0 in the final.

They lost the 1990 Scottish Cup Final to Aberdeen on penalties. This was the beginning of a period of poor results and increasing financial instability for Celtic, which continued until the club was taken over by Fergus McCann in 1994.

McNeill was sacked by Celtic in May 1991 after four seasons as manager. In two spells he won eight trophies as Celtic manager - four League championships, three Scottish Cups and one League Cup.

After leaving Celtic he worked in the media until he was asked to become a club ambassador for Celtic in 2009.

In December 2015 Celtic installed a statue at the entrance to the Celtic Way outside Celtic Park, created by sculptor John McKenna. The statue shows McNeill holding aloft the European Cup, an iconic image in the club's history.

McNeill wrote three books:
For Celtic and Scotland in 1966,
Back to Paradise (with Alex Cameron) in 1988
Hail Cesar in 2004.

(This post was edited by John Treleven on Apr 23, 2019, 10:59 AM)

Mr. T
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Apr 23, 2019, 9:29 PM

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Post #3 of 3 (439 views)
Re: [John Treleven] Billy McNeill (Blantyre Vics, Celtic, Scotland) [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

We won't see the like of Billy McNeill again

Alex Massie

Certain deaths unavoidably feel like the closing of an era, the final confirmation that what has been and gone can never return. One such is the passing of Billy McNeill, whose death, at the age of 79, was announced this morning. The Celtic captain, skipper of not just that club's greatest side but of the finest team that ever emerged from Scotland; the only Scottish team to win the European cup and the first British side to do so, was one of a kind.

All football clubs cherish their heritage but few more devoutly than Celtic. If the club's penchant for underdog status sits oddly with its remarkable record of achievement Celtic will soon win the Scottish championship for a fiftieth time it still reflects something real. This has not just been a football club; it has been a family. A movement for Catholic Scots and Scots of Irish descent that for generations has understood itself as the outsiders, forever considered somehow suspect or not quite the thing by a Scottish establishment whose colours, especially in Glasgow, were the royal blue of Rangers, not the green and white of Celtic. There was enough truth in this for it to matter, even if especially when viewed from outwith the Old Firm duopoly the distinction has always seemed one of degree not kind.

But of McNeill it may reasonably be said we shall not see his like again. As the obituaries remind us, he was nicknamed Cesar after the actor Cesar Romero on the account of his looks but the public preferred to think of him as "Caesar", a sobriquet better fitting his imperial demeanour at the heart of an all-conquering Celtic XI that won nine consecutive Scottish league titles. Indeed, in the course of a career amounting to 800 or so games in the hoops, McNeill gathered a personal haul of 31 trophies.

Football has changed since those black-and-white days and often for the better. But even progress and improvement come at a cost. The commercialisation of the sport, both made possible by and dependent on the globalised commodification of entertainment, has made elite football a wholly different game to that played by McNeill.

This season's Champions League has proven unusually interesting. The progress of Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax to the semi-finals has offered a refreshing alternative to the cast of suspects commonly present at the sharp end of European football's flagship competition.

Satisfying as this has been, some perspective is required. According to Forbes magazine's latest analysis, Tottenham is the tenth most valuable club on the planet. As also-rans go, they run pretty far and pretty fast. Ajax, meanwhile, provide a more interesting case. That a club which has won the tournament four times can be considered plucky, impoverished underdogs tells you everything it is necessary to know about how European football has, at the highest level, become a closed shop entrance to which is denied to all but a gilded few. And, in this context, Ajax really are plucky, impoverished underdogs. So much so in fact that anyone possessing even an ounce or two of romance must keenly hope they lift the trophy for a fifth time. It would be a more remarkable achievement than any previously enjoyed by one of Europe's greatest clubs.

As everyone knows and, yes, as some are tired of hearing every member of the side McNeil led to glory in Lisbon was born and brought up within 30 miles of Celtic Park. That was remarkable even fifty years ago; it would be simply impossible now and not just because the seams of talent to be mined in Glasgow and Lanarkshire were deeper then.

That gave McNeill's side a rare distinction that has proved imperishable, adding lustre to a legend that would have more than sufficed even without that quality. These were the Glasgow boys that took on, and beat, a continent. On that hot Lisbon afternoon in the summer of 1967 Internazionale of Milan were confident they'd win the European cup for a third time. They reckoned without Jock Stein's men; they reckoned without the Lions of Lisbon.

And it was not just Celtic's status as underdogs that won so many admirers then; it was also their commitment to attacking football. There is a peculiar beauty to the catenaccio style preferred, indeed mastered, by Helenio Herrera's Inter team but it is one for a particular type of purist. To put it differently, if everyone played like that football would be a diminished spectacle. Celtic, by contrast and in keeping with the club's idea of its own traditions, were an attacking phenomenon. They ran Inter off their feet and Stevie Chalmers' winner, struck with just five minutes left on the clock, was both a long time coming and seemingly inevitable. It was also a blow for a particular idea of what football should be.

As Bill Shankly, whose Liverpool side had been demolished by Ajax earlier in the competition, told Stein, "John, you're immortal now". All true and a status by no means confined to the manager. McNeill, who captained the club for a dozen seasons, was rendered immortal that day too. Scottish football has not seen the like of that team, which reached another final and a brace of semi-finals too, again. Nor, indeed, has British football while on the continent perhaps the homegrown Ajax side which triumphed in 1995 comes closest to equalling Celtic's achievement.

That Ajax side disappeared overnight, however, plucked clean by richer clubs in Italy, Spain, and England. This year's underdogs from Amsterdam will suffer the same fate; enjoy their presence together while you can for it will not, cannot, last for long.

In 1967 Celtic defeated the champions of Switzerland, France, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. On a given day, the randomness essential to knock-out competition could have sunk the Scots' chances. That randomness upon which sport depends more than the people who run sport allow would in time prove too much for European football's guardians. The Champions League is not just about making money though of course it is largely about that it is about making sure that money is shared between a select, unchanging, few. Randomness is the enemy because business plans demand predictable income streams.

So, even as we marvel as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo or whomever else, we know, deep down, modern football has privileged spectacle at the expense of poetry. There can be no room for the unknown, the new, the surprising. It makes for a great show but one whose rewards are subject to the law of diminishing returns. It is magnificent in its way, but it is not sport. It is a commodity that knows the price of everything but the value of rather less.

The idea a team from Scotland could become champions of Europe now is palpably absurd. But then the notion clubs such as Red Star Belgrade or Steaua Bucharest could do so once again is equally absurd. This century, only Porto have challenged the plutocratic elite and that too was a one-off whose re-occurrence seems less probable year by year. The money doesn't allow for it.

Sport requires competition, otherwise it is only spectacle. The field has never been truly level but it was once level enough for surprise and wonder. Removing that, stripping sport of its randomness, impoverishes it even as it enriches those protected from upsets.

In that sense, the death of Billy McNeill is the end of one world. McNeill was the leonine symbol of that great Celtic era; the Caesar of a team that conquered all worlds available to it. Something precious has been lost since then and not just in Scotland either.


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