‘Hail Cesar!’ - Celtic legend passes away

A Celtic fan pays tribute at the statue of Billy McNeill which was erected outside Parkhead
A Celtic fan pays tribute at the statue of Billy McNeill which was erected outside Parkhead

Celtic legend Billy McNeill, the first Brit to hold aloft the European Cup, died at the age of 79 on Monday

The Mossend native, who attended Holy Family Primary and Our Lady’s High, passed away surrounded by his family.

Nicknamed Cesar, Billy led Celtic to their European triumph over Inter Milan 2-1 in 1967, forever cementing the legnd of the ‘Lisbon Lions’ and captained the club to nine successive titles, seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups.

He enjoyed further success in two spells as Celtic manager winning four titles and four cups, and also managed Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa.

In 2017 is was revealed Billy had been living with dementia since 2010, which latterly robbed him of his ability to speak.

He is survived by his wife Liz, their children, Susan, Paula, Libby, Carol and Martyn and grandchildren.

A statement from his family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill.

“He passed away 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.”

A one-club man as a player Billy made nearly 800 appearances for Celtic between 1957 and 1975 after a youth career at Blantyre Victoria, and also won 29 Scotland caps.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell paid tribute to the club’s ‘greatest ever captain’.

He said: “We have lost a great Celtic man and I would first of all like to pass on my condolences on behalf of the club to Billy’s family at this very sad time.

“Their loss is a deep and profound one, and I know that everyone, regardless of their football allegiance, will be sending their thoughts and prayers to Billy’s family.

“Those of us lucky enough to see Billy play appreciate we were truly privileged to have done so.”