A campaign for a commemorative statue of Celtic great Billy McNeill to be erected in his home town of Bellshill is moving a significant step closer, writes Craig Goldthorp.
Tomorrow (Thursday) campaigners including local man Eddie Lynas, MSP Richard Lyle and councillor Jordan Linden will attend a public meeting to discuss building the permanent tribute to the legendary Lisbon Lions skipper, who died aged 79 on April 22.
“It is about time North Lanarkshire recognised Billy’s achievements,” Eddie (63) told the Times and Speaker.
“We need to set up a steering committee, find a building company and set up bank accounts to set the wheels in motion for building a tribute to Billy.
“Billy was the greatest Celtic captain of all time, a man who put Bellshill on the map.
“He was the first person from Britain to lift the European Cup (McNeill famously captained Celtic to a 2-1 win over Inter Milan in the Lisbon final of 1967).
“Viewpark already has a statue of Jimmy Johnstone, Saltcoats has one of Bobby Lennox and Hamilton has one of Rangers great Davie Cooper, so it is regrettable that Bellshill doesn’t yet have one of Billy.
“Jimmy Johnstone was Celtic’s greatest player ever, but there will never be another Billy McNeill at Celtic.
“He was a gentleman in more ways than one and he always took time to talk to people.”
In addition to winning the European Cup with Celtic during an 18-year playing spell between 1957 and 1975, McNeill – nicknamed Cesar after the actor Cesar Romero – won nine Scottish League championships in a row, as well as seven Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups.
McNeill made a club record 822 games for the Hoops during his 18 years with them.
A one-club man as a senior player, McNeill also won 29 Scotland caps between 1961 and ’72.
McNeill also managed Celtic for nine seasons, from 1978 to 1983 and 1987 to 1991, winning four Scottish league championships.
This included a league and cup double in 1987–88, the club’s centenary season.
He also managed Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
In 2015, Celtic installed a statue outside Celtic Park of McNeill holding aloft the European Cup, an iconic image in their history.
Eddie added: “I have great memories of seeing Billy play.
“I was also honoured to meet him regularly.
“He was a friend of the family and I was in his mum and dad’s house many a time.
“I went to Our Lady’s High School in Motherwell and so did Billy.
“And Billy always used to present prizes at the Boys Guild football in Bellshill every year.”
Eddie hopes that the McNeill statue will be erected in the Sacred Heart Chapel on Motherwell Road.
This will be one of the issues discussed during Thursday’s meeting at Bellshill’s Joe McKay Community Centre, which is scheduled to run from 7.30 to 8.30pm.
All are welcome to attend.