Celtic family gathers to pay tribute to ‘Cesar’

Neil Lennon and Scott Brown led the Celtic tribute to Billy McNeill on Saturday morning by laying a wreath in his honour at his statue outside Parkhead
Neil Lennon and Scott Brown led the Celtic tribute to Billy McNeill on Saturday morning by laying a wreath in his honour at his statue outside Parkhead

Several thousand Celtic fans congregated before Saturday’s match with Kilmarnock to see interim boss Neil Lennon and captain Scott Brown lay down a wreath at the statue of Billy McNeill.

Billy, from Bellshill, died last week aged 79 and his family wanted the life of Celtic’s greatest ever captain commemorated in the way he would have wanted – with “noise, passion and enjoyment”.

The wreath laying in front of the Celtic Park was marked with a moment of silence, before supporters started an impromptu version of the ‘Celtic Song’.

Billy, was brought up in Aberforth Place, Bellshill, and was baptised at Holy Family Church in Mossend and attended Holy Family Primary.

At the age of nine he moved with his family to Hereford, as his father James was in the army, where they stayed for two and a half years.

Returning to Bellshill the family lived on Motherwell Road and he attended Our Lady’s High where as his footballing talent started to shine and he joined Blantyre Victoria.

Billy was signed by Celtic for £250 in 1957 after then reserve team coach Jock Stein saw him playing for Scotland schoolboys.

A legendary career would follow which saw Billy play around 800 times for Celtic and lift 31 trophies as both a player and manager.

Billy is survived by his wife Liz, who he married in 1963 at Sacred Heart Church, Bellshill, their children, Susan, Paula, Libby, Carol and Martyn, and grandchildren.

Billy’s wife Liz, and the rest of the family, were given a round of applause when they walked down from the stadium, as were his fellow Lisbon Lions, Bertie Auld, John Clark, Bobby Lennox and Jim Craig.

Inside the ground special video tributes were played on the stadium’s screens and the players also wore special black armbands.

A minute’s applause was held before kick-off before Celtic beat their visitors 1-0, perhaps fittingly it was the current side’s number five, Jozo Šimunović, who got the goal.

Billy’s funeral will take place on Friday at 11.30am in St Aloysius Church, Garnethill, after which his cortege will pass by Celtic Park at around 1.30pm.