Billy McNeill

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Billy McNeill
Mcneill.jpg
McNeill as Celtic manager in September 1982
Personal information
Full name William McNeill[1]
Date of birth (1940-03-02) 2 March 1940 (age 78)
Place of birth Bellshill, Scotland
Height 1.87 m (6 ft 1 12 in)
Playing position Defender
Youth career
0000–1957 Blantyre Victoria
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1957–1975 Celtic 486 (22)
National team
1961–1972 Scotland 29 (3)
1961–1967 Scottish League XI 9 (0)
Teams managed
1977 Clyde
1977–1978 Aberdeen
1978–1983 Celtic
1983–1986 Manchester City
1986–1987 Aston Villa
1987–1991 Celtic
1998 Hibernian (caretaker)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

William McNeill MBE (born 2 March 1940) is a Scottish former football player and manager. He is known for his long association with Celtic, spanning more than 60 years as a player, manager and club ambassador. He captained the 'Lisbon Lions' to their European Cup victory in 1967 and later spent two spells as the club's manager. As a player and manager combined, he won 31 major trophies with Celtic.

A defender, he played for Celtic for his entire senior career, and holds the club record for most appearances, a total of 822 games over 18 seasons. He was captain during their most successful era in the 1960s and 70s. The club won nine consecutive Scottish League championships and thirteen other major domestic trophies in this time, and in 1967 became the first British club to win the European Cup. He also played 29 times for Scotland.

McNeill managed Celtic for nine seasons, from 1978 to 1983 and 1987 to 1991, winning four Scottish League championships, including the league and cup double in 1987-88, the club's centenary season. He also managed Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa.

He became a club ambassador for Celtic in 2009. In 2015 the club installed a statue outside Celtic Park of McNeill holding aloft the European Cup, an iconic image in Celtic's history.

Playing career[edit]

McNeill was signed by Celtic in 1957 from nearby junior team, Blantyre Victoria, as a defender. He was given the nickname Cesar after the actor Cesar Romero.[2]

In his early career, Celtic endured some of their most difficult times, and did not win a trophy for eight years. After the arrival of Jock Stein as manager in 1965, however, Celtic's fortunes improved. In the 1965 Scottish Cup final, Celtic defeated Dunfermline 3-2, with McNeill scoring the winning goal. In that season McNeill was named Scottish Footballer of the Year, the first year it was awarded.

With McNeill as captain, Celtic enjoyed their most successful period, dominating Scottish football and regularly competing in European competitions. They won nine Scottish League championships in a row, as well as seven Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups.

Celtic's greatest season was in 1966-67, when they won every competition they entered, and were the first club to win five trophies in a single season. As well as a domestic treble and the Glasgow Cup, McNeill led the team to victory in the 1967 European Cup Final. The team, which became known as the 'Lisbon Lions', defeated Inter Milan 2-1 and McNeill was the first British footballer to lift the trophy. Celtic again reached the final in 1970, losing to Feyenoord.

He retired as a player in 1975 after a record 822[3] appearances for Celtic, in which he played every minute of the games he started, never having been substituted.

He won 29 caps for Scotland, scoring 3 goals, and also played 9 times for the Scottish League XI.[4]

Management career[edit]

After retiring as a player, McNeill began coaching Celtic Boys Club's under 16 team. He began his management career at Clyde in April 1977, before moving to Aberdeen in June, having been recommended to the club by Jock Stein.

Aberdeen[edit]

In his one season in charge, 1977–78, McNeill led Aberdeen to runners-up finishes in the league and Scottish Cup, and enjoyed a positive working relationship with the club's chairman, Dick Donald.[5] Aberdeen's 2nd-place finish in the league was their best since 1972, and three places above Stein's Celtic. However, in 1978 Stein left Celtic, and identified McNeill as his successor. McNeill was unable to resist the challenge of managing Celtic, and left Aberdeen after only 11 months. He was succeeded at Aberdeen by Alex Ferguson.

Celtic[edit]

In McNeill's first season, he transformed the club's fortunes on the pitch. Celtic, who had finished in fifth place in 1977-78, won the League championship. On the final day of the season, 10-man Celtic famously beat Rangers 4-2 to secure the title.

His five years in charge saw Celtic win three League championships, in 1978-79, 1980–81 and 1981–82, the Scottish Cup in 1979-80 and the League Cup in 1982-83. This period saw Celtic's greatest competition come from the New Firm clubs - Aberdeen, who won the League championship in 1979-80, and Dundee United, who won the title in 1982-83.

McNeill is credited with developing young players for Celtic, such as Paul McStay and Charlie Nicholas, and making signings such as Murdo MacLeod and Davie Provan who became key players for the club through the 1980s.

However, McNeill found working with Desmond White, Celtic's chairman, very difficult, and felt underpaid and underappreciated. Despite Celtic's successes, by 1983 he was being paid less than the managers of Aberdeen, Dundee United, Rangers and St Mirren. When White sold Nicholas to Arsenal, against McNeill's wishes, McNeill looked for the first available way out, and took up the offer to manage Manchester City.[5]

Manchester City and Aston Villa[edit]

On 30 June 1983 he moved to England to manage Manchester City. He secured promotion for City after two seasons in charge, and oversaw survival in their first season back in the First Division. Two years before being appointed by City, he had been strongly linked with the manager's job at their city rivals Manchester United, when Ron Atkinson was appointed instead.[6]

In 1986–87, he became one of the few managers to manage two relegated teams in the same season; he started the season as manager of Manchester City but quit in September 1986 to take charge of fellow strugglers Aston Villa. When Villa were relegated, after finishing bottom of the First Division in May 1987, he stood down and was replaced by Graham Taylor.

Return to Celtic[edit]

He then returned to Celtic, and in his first season, 1987-88, the club won the League Championship and Scottish Cup double in their centenary year. Celtic were renowned for scoring late goals that season, and in both the Cup semi-final and final scored late goals to come from behind and win 2–1. Celtic won the Scottish Cup the following season, defeating Rangers 1-0 in the final.

The following two seasons were disappointing, and Celtic did not win a trophy. They lost the 1990 Scottish Cup Final to Aberdeen on penalties. Celtic's league performance was particularly poor; after finishing in 3rd place in 1988-89, they managed only 5th in 1989-90 and 3rd in 1990-91. This was the beginning of a period of poor results and increasing financial instability for Celtic, which continued until the club was taken over by Fergus McCann in 1994. McNeill was sacked by Celtic in May 1991 after four seasons as manager, at the age of 51. In two spells he won eight trophies as Celtic manager - four League championships, three Scottish Cups and one League Cup.

After leaving Celtic he turned down several offers to return to management, including from Dundee, and worked in the media instead. He remained bitter about the manner of his departure from Celtic, until he was asked to become a club ambassador in 2009.[5]

Hibernian[edit]

McNeill had a brief spell as football development manager[7] at Hibs beginning in January 1998, where he unsuccessfully attempted to arrest a decline in fortunes at the club.[8] In February 1998 he took charge of the team for one game after manager Jim Duffy was sacked, even though McNeill had been out of football since leaving Celtic in 1991 and was recovering from heart surgery.[9] He left Hibs at the end of the 1997–98 season.[10]

Books[edit]

McNeill has written three books: For Celtic and Scotland in 1966, Back to Paradise (with Alex Cameron) in 1988 and Hail Cesar in 2004.

Awards and recognition[edit]

John McKenna's statue of McNeill outside Celtic Park

McNeill was awarded the MBE in November 1974. He has been inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, and was named Glasgow's Sportsman of the Millennium in 1999.

In 2002 he was voted Celtic's greatest ever captain, and a member of Celtic's greatest team, by the club's fans.

In December 2015 Celtic installed a statue at the entrance to the Celtic Way outside Celtic Park, created by sculptor John McKenna. The statue, in bronze on a granite base, shows McNeill holding aloft the European Cup, an iconic image in the club's history.

Personal life[edit]

McNeill's maternal grandparents were from Lithuania.[11]

McNeill, along with former Rangers player Eric Caldow, stood as a candidate for the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election.[12] In 2008, he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow.[2]

It was reported in February 2017 that McNeill was suffering from dementia and was very limited in his speech.[13]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

[14]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Scotland League Scottish Cup League Cup Europe Total[15]
1957–58 Celtic Division One 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1958–59 17 0 0 0 6 0 0 0 23 0
1959–60 19 0 7 0 6 0 0 0 32 0
1960–61 31 1 8 0 4 0 0 0 43 1
1961–62 29 1 6 0 6 0 0 0 41 1
1962–63 28 1 7 0 6 0 1 0 42 1
1963–64 28 0 4 0 6 0 8 0 46 0
1964–65 22 0 6 1 6 0 2 0 36 1
1965–66 25 0 7 0 10 0 7 1 49 1
1966–67 33 0 6 0 10 2 9 1 58 3
1967–68 34 5 1 0 10 0 2 0 50* 6†
1968–69 34 3 7 3 9 0 6 0 56 6
1969–70 31 5 5 0 10 2 9 0 55 7
1970–71 31 1 8 1 10 0 5 1 54 3
1971–72 34 3 6 1 8 0 7 0 55 4
1972–73 30 1 7 1 10 0 4 0 51 2
1973–74 30 0 5 0 11 0 7 0 53 0
1974–75 30 1 4 0 9 0 2 0 45 1
Total Scotland 486 22 94 7 137 4 69 3 789* 37†
Career total 486 22 94 7 137 4 69 3 789* 37†


* Includes 3 Appearances in the World Club Championship
† Includes 1 Goal in the World Club Championship

NB these Totals do not include Glasgow Cup appearances, which at the time was a Senior Trophy

International[edit]

Scotland national team[16]
Year Apps Goals
1961 6 0
1962 2 0
1963 3 0
1964 2 0
1965 6 1
1966
1967 1 0
1968 2 0
1969 4 2
1970
1971
1972 3 0
Total 29 3

International goals[edit]

Scores and results list Scotland's goal tally first.[17]
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 13 October 1965 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Poland 1–0 1–2 1966 FIFA World Cup qualification
2. 3 May 1969 Racecourse Ground, Wrexham  Wales 1–0 5–3 1968–69 British Home Championship
3. 17 May 1969 Hampden Park, Glasgow  Cyprus 2–0 8–0 1970 FIFA World Cup qualification

Honours[edit]

Player[edit]

Celtic
Individual

Manager[edit]

Celtic
Manchester City

Managerial statistics[edit]

As of 30 November 2013
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Clyde[18] Scotland April 1977 June 1977 8 4 3 1 050.00
Aberdeen Scotland June 1977 August 1978 57 37 11 9 064.91
Celtic Scotland August 1978 May 1983 258 165 40 53 063.95
Manchester City England June 1983 September 1986 150 60 41 49 040.00
Aston Villa England September 1986 May 1987 41 9 15 17 021.95
Celtic Scotland May 1987 May 1991 197 108 41 48 054.82
Total 654 346 140 168 052.91

References[edit]

General
  • McNeill, Billy. Hail Cesar. Headline Book Publishing (4 October 2004). ISBN 978-0-7553-1315-0.
Specific
  1. ^ Billy McNeill, londonhearts.com
  2. ^ a b "Bhoy racer". The Herald. Herald & Times Group. Retrieved 29 November 2016. "Billy's nickname is Cesar," the prof told the audience. "However, this doesn't come from any Roman connections, rather from a movie. In the original Ocean's 11, Cesar Romero drove the getaway car.
  3. ^ This total is sometimes given as 790. 822 includes 32 games in minor competitions, including the Glasgow Cup, Drybrough Cup and the Anglo-Scottish Cup.
  4. ^ "Scotland FL Players by Appearances". Londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Grant, Michael & Robertson, Rob. 2011 The Management: Scotland's Great Football Bosses
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ McNeill's position has been described in different sources as "football development manager", "football development officer" and "director of development"
  8. ^ Football: Millar two hot for Hibs, The Independent, 25 January 1998.
  9. ^ Football: Miller helps Miller to wind up Hibernian, The Independent, 8 February 1998.
  10. ^ Article: McNeill's departure inevitable, The Scotsman, 16 July 1998.
  11. ^ McNeill, Billy (2004). Hail Cesar. London: Headline Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4722-2699-0. My Lithuanian grandparents boarded an immigrant ship believing that they were bound for the New World, but instead of landing in New York they disembarked at Leith
  12. ^ "'Old' firm legends seek votes". BBC News. BBC. 27 March 2003. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Family of Billy McNeill confirm he has dementia". BBC News. BBC. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Billy McNeill". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman.
  15. ^ The Celtic Football Companion, David Docherty. ISBN 0-85976-173-8, Published 1986.
  16. ^ National Football Teams profile
  17. ^ SFA profile
  18. ^ "Clyde - Manager details - McNeillm Billy". FitbaStats. Retrieved 26 February 2017.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Duncan MacKay
Celtic captain
1962–1975
Succeeded by
Kenny Dalglish