“While he received a mountain of plaudits for great moments as a player and manager, the biggest tribute I could give him is that he always was – and continues to be – a thoroughly nice man,” Jim Craig on Billy McNeill

On this day in 1940, Billy McNeill was born in Bellshill.

The career of Billy McNeill is so well documented that a brief summary is all that is needed here.

He signed for Celtic on 20th August 1957; made his debut against Clyde on 23rd August 1958; and played his final match for the club on 3rd May 1975 in the Scottish Cup Final, when Celtic beat Airdrie 3-1.

Over those years, Billy won 7 Scottish Cup Winner’s medals, nine for League Championship wins and six for the League Cup. He also got a European Cup winner’s medal at Lisbon in 1967 and picked up 29 caps for Scotland. In all competitions, Billy played 831 matches for Celtic.

After his playing career ended, Billy moved into management at Clyde, Aberdeen, Celtic, Manchester City and Aston Villa before coming back to Celtic again.

It was a fabulous career in the game and I was very fortunate to have him alongside me in the European Cup-winning side of 1967.

And yet, while he received a mountain of plaudits for great moments as a player and manager, the biggest tribute I could give him is that he always was – and continues to be – a thoroughly nice man.

And Billy was celebrating his 23rd birthday on this day in 1963, when this Celtic team ran out at Parkhead for a league game against Airdrie –

Frank Haffey, Ian Young, Jim Kennedy, John MacNamee, Billy McNeill, Billy Price, Bobby Murdoch, Bobby Craig, John Hughes, John Divers and Frank Brogan.

At that time, Celtic were lying in 5th place in the table, with Airdrie 11th and the difference in ability was pretty obvious. The home fans in the crowd of 23,000 were very pleased to see two goals by John Divers and an OG by Diamonds centre-half Thomson giving Celtic a 3-1 victory.

Jim Craig

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About Author

Lisbon Lion and Celtic Ambassador Jim Craig provides The Celtic Star readers with a 365 day diary of all things Celtic, providing a remarkable and unique insight into our club from one of the players who won us The Celtic Star in Lisbon on 25 May 1967.

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