GLASGOW: Billy McNeill, captain of the history-creating Celtic team who won the European Champions Cup in 1967, has died at the age of 79.
A club statement said that McNeill, who led Celtic to their 2-1 victory over Internazionale in Lisbon and also captained the club to nine successive titles, seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups “passed away surrounded by his family and loved ones”.
McNeill later had two spells as Celtic manager in which he won four titles and four cups. He managed Manchester City and Aston Villa too. He had been suffering from dementia in recent years.
Born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, McNeill joined Celtic from junior side Blantyre Victoria and made his debut on 23 August 23, 1958.
His commanding leadership from centre-half in more than 800 appearances earned McNeill the nickname of ‘Caesar’
The Scottish Cup final win against Airdrie on May 3, 1975, was his farewell game.
Among his many career highs was scoring the winner in the 1965 Scottish Cup final, ending an eight-year trophy drought for Celtic. He also found the net in the 1969 and 1972 finals.
The European Cup final of 1967 was the pinnacle, coming in the same season Celtic won a domestic treble, but he was on the losing side three years later when Feyenoord beat Celtic in Milan after extra-time.He was capped 29 times for Scotland.
McNeill briefly took charge of Clyde and Aberdeen before returning to Celtic to succeed Jock Stein – under whom he enjoyed his many successes – in 1978.
His first season came to a memorable conclusion, when Celtic’s 10-men came from behind to beat Rangers on the final day of the campaign to win the title.
McNeill left for City in 1983, securing promotion to the English top flight in his second year, before joining Aston Villa in September 1986, with both sides ending up relegated that season.
His second spell as Celtic boss began impressively as he delivered a league and Scottish Cup double in the club’s centenary season, 1987-88.
However, a four-year stint would yield just one more trophy, the 1989 Scottish Cup.
Seven years after leaving the dugout at Celtic, his last taste of management came at Hibernian in 1998, where he stood in for one game during a brief stint as director of football at Easter Road.
McNeill, awarded the MBE in 1974, is in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame. He was voted Celtic’s greatest captain in a 2002 fans’ poll, became a club ambassador in 2009 and was the subject of a statue erected at Celtic Park in 2015.