Honour Billy the way he would have wanted

Billy McNeill lifts the Scottish Cup in 1974
Billy McNeill lifts the Scottish Cup in 1974

Billy McNeill’s family have urged the Celtic support to honour the club’s former skipper and manager in the way he would have wanted – with “noise, passion and enjoyment”.

The Parkhead outfit have outlined their plans to celebrate the life of the first British man to ever lift the European Cup when they host Kilmarnock on Saturday.

Neil Lennon and his first-team squad plan to lay a wreath below the statue of the late defender, who died at the age of 79 on Monday, outside Celtic Park 90 minutes prior to the 12.30pm kick-off.

Special video tributes will be played on the stadium’s screens, while the players will also wear special black armbands.

But instead of the traditional moment of silence, club chiefs say there will instead be a minute’s applause before the game with Killie gets underway following a request from McNeill’s loved ones.

In a statement posted on the club’s website, his family said: “We do not believe football stadiums were ever built to be to be silent. Our father would not have wanted that. They should be places of noise, passion and enjoyment. Football was his life and Celtic Park was a very large part of that. So please celebrate his life with a moment of cheers, songs and applause because that would make him feel at home again.”

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, Bellshill, 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 against England.

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.

His funeral will take place at Friday, May 3, at 11.30am in St Aloysius Church, Garnethill, 11.30 in the morning, after which his cortege will pass by Celtic Park at around 1.30pm.