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
Place of birth Bellshill, Scotland
Date of death 22 April 2019(2019-04-22) (aged 79)
Place of death Newton Mearns, 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 (2 March 1940 – 22 April 2019) was a Scottish football player and manager. He had a long association with Celtic, spanning more than sixty years as a player, manager and club ambassador. McNeill captained Celtic's 'Lisbon Lions' to their European Cup victory in 1967 and later spent two spells as the club's manager. As a player and manager, he won 31 major trophies with Celtic.

A defender, McNeill 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. 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.

Early life[edit]

McNeill was born on 2 March 1940 in Bellshill, Lanarkshire. His father was a soldier in the Black Watch and later the Army Physical Training Corps. Aged nine, McNeill moved to Hereford in England where his father was posted, and stayed for two and a half years. Although he already liked football, he enjoyed playing rugby union in his time there.[2]

He moved to Motherwell and excelled playing football as centre-half at Our Lady's High School. His schoolboy performances led to him signing for the junior team Blantyre Victoria.[3]

Playing career[edit]

McNeill was signed by Celtic for £250 in 1957 after then reserve team coach Jock Stein saw him playing for Scotland schoolboys against England.[4] He was given the nickname Cesar after the actor Cesar Romero.[5]

In his early career, Celtic endured some of their most difficult times, and did not win a trophy for eight years. After Stein became manager in 1965, however, the club's fortunes improved. In the 1965 Scottish Cup final, Celtic defeated Dunfermline 3–2, with McNeill scoring the winning goal. In that season he was named Scottish Footballer of the Year, the first year it was awarded.[6]

With McNeill as captain, Celtic enjoyed their most successful period, dominating Scottish football and regularly competing in the latter stages of European competitions. They won nine Scottish League championships in a row, as well as seven Scottish Cups and six Scottish League Cups.[7]

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.[8] Celtic again reached the final in 1970, losing to Feyenoord.[9]

McNeill retired as a player in 1975, having made a club record 822[note 1] appearances for Celtic and never being substituted.[10][11] He won 29 caps for Scotland, scoring 3 goals, and also played 9 times for the Scottish League XI.[12]

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 two months later.

Aberdeen[edit]

McNeill was appointed Aberdeen manager in June 1977, having been recommended by Jock Stein.[13] He succeeded Ally MacLeod.[14] 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.[13] Their performance in the league was their best since 1972, and three places above Celtic. During his season with Aberdeen, McNeill signed Gordon Strachan, Steve Archibald and Neil Simpson.[14] When Stein retired as Celtic manager, he identified McNeill as his successor, and McNeill accepted the club's offer. He was succeeded at Aberdeen by Alex Ferguson.[13]

Celtic[edit]

McNeill returned to a Celtic side who had finished in fifth place in 1977–78. He immediately improved the club's fortunes, as they won the league championship in 1978–79. Celtic clinched the title in their final match of the league season by beating Rangers 4–2, despite having had Johnny Doyle sent off.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[13]

Manchester City and Aston Villa[edit]

On 30 June 1983 he moved to England to manage Manchester City. 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.[18] McNeill secured promotion for City after two seasons in charge (in 1984–85), and oversaw survival in their first season back in the First Division (1985–86).[4]

He started the 1986–87 season as manager of Manchester City, but quit in September 1986 to take charge of Aston Villa.[7] When Villa were relegated, after finishing bottom of the First Division in May 1987, McNeill stood down and was replaced by Graham Taylor.[19] Manchester City were also relegated that season.

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.[7] 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 in 1988–89, defeating Rangers 1–0 in the final.[20][21]

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 third place in 1988-89, they managed only fifth in 1989–90 and third 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.[16][22]

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.[13]

Hibernian[edit]

McNeill had a brief spell as football development manager[note 2] at Hibernian in the later part of the 1997–98 season.[23] He was brought in as a mentor to manager Jim Duffy,[23] as they unsuccessfully attempted to arrest a decline in fortunes at the club.[24] McNeill took charge of the team for one game after Duffy was sacked, even though he had been out of football since leaving Celtic in 1991 and was recovering from heart surgery.[25] He left Hibernian at the end of the 1997–98 season.[26]

Books[edit]

McNeill wrote three autobiographies:

  • McNeill, Billy (1966). For Celtic and Scotland. The Sportmans Book Club.
  • McNeill, Billy; Cameron, Alex (1988). Back to Paradise. Mainstream. ISBN 978-1851581887.
  • McNeill, Billy (2004). Hail Cesar. Headline. ISBN 978-0755313167.

Awards and recognition[edit]

John McKenna's statue of McNeill outside Celtic Park

McNeill was awarded the MBE in November 1974. In 2002 he was voted Celtic's greatest ever captain, and a member of Celtic's greatest team, by the club's fans.[27] He was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002[28] and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2004.[29]

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.[30]

In 2019, he was recognised with a 'One Club Man' award by Spanish club Athletic Bilbao for his achievements and loyalty to Celtic.[31][32]

Personal life[edit]

McNeill's maternal grandparents were from Lithuania.[33] He was Catholic.[34][35]

McNeill married Liz Callaghan, a dancer on the TV variety show The White Heather Club in 1963. They had five children.[4]

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.[36] In 2008, he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow.[5]

It was reported in February 2017 that McNeill was suffering from dementia and was very limited in his speech.[37] He died on 22 April 2019, aged 79.[4][38][7]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

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[39]
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†
Sources[10][40]

* Includes 3 appearances in the World Club Championship
† Includes 1 goal in the World Club Championship
NB These totals do not include appearances in the Glasgow Cup, which at the time was a senior trophy.[41]

International appearances[edit]

Scotland national team[1][42]
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.[1][43]
No. 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

Managerial record[edit]

As of 30 November 2013
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Clyde[44] Scotland April 1977 June 1977 8 4 3 1 050.00
Aberdeen[45] Scotland June 1977 August 1978 50 31 11 8 062.00
Celtic[16] 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[16] Scotland May 1987 May 1991 197 108 41 48 054.82
Total 654 346 140 168 052.91

Honours[edit]

Player[edit]

Celtic[10]

Scotland[46]

Individual

Manager[edit]

Celtic[16]

Aberdeen[14]

Manchester City

Individual[48][49][50]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ McNeill's position at Hibernian has been described in different sources as "football development manager", "football development officer" and "director of development".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

General sources
Specific citations
  1. ^ a b c Billy McNeill, londonhearts.com
  2. ^ McNeill, B., 2014. Hail Cesar
  3. ^ Forsyth, Roddy (23 April 2019). "Billy McNeill: The ultimate one-club player who helped Celtic change the course of European football". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Billy McNeill obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Brown, Alan (6 December 2018). "Scotland – Player of the Year". RSSSF. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d "Billy McNeill: Former Celtic captain & manager dies aged 79". BBC Sport. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  8. ^ Archie Macpherson (18 December 2015). "Billy McNeill: The 'Luke Skywalker of his age'". BBC Sport. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  9. ^ Ross, James M. (4 June 2015). "European Competitions 1969-70". RSSSF. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b c "Celtic player Billy McNeill". FitbaStats. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  11. ^ Wilson, Paul (23 April 2019). "'His career was incredible' … Billy McNeill was a winner as player and manager". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Scotland FL Players by Appearances". Londonhearts.com. London Hearts Supporters' Club. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  13. ^ a b c d e Grant, Michael & Robertson, Rob. 2011 The Management: Scotland's Great Football Bosses
  14. ^ a b c "In Memoriam: Billy McNeill". Aberdeen FC. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  15. ^ Sullivan, Joe (21 May 2012). "When 10 men won the league". Celtic FC. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  16. ^ a b c d e "Celtic manager Billy McNeill". FitbaStats. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  17. ^ Harris, Daniel (19 April 2017). "The forgotten story of ... Dundee United's glory years under Jim McLean". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Evening Times – Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  19. ^ Heald, Dan (25 April 2012). "Aston Villa's form under Alex McLeish as bad as that of the relegated squad under Billy McNeill". Retrieved 23 April 2019 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  20. ^ "Old Firm finals down the years". BBC Sport. 1 May 2002. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  21. ^ Traynor, James (22 May 1989). "Tension and fear spoil show-piece". The Glasgow Herald. p. 22. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  22. ^ "Alan McRae pays tribute to Billy McNeill". Scottish Football Association. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  23. ^ a b "Billy McNeill". Hibernian FC. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  24. ^ "Football: Millar two hot for Hibs". The Independent. 25 January 1998.
  25. ^ "Football: Miller helps Miller to wind up Hibernian". The Independent. 8 February 1998.
  26. ^ Pia, Simon (16 July 1998). "Article: McNeill's departure inevitable". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Jinky best-ever Celtic player". 9 September 2002 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  28. ^ "The names in the Hall of Fame". BBC News. 30 November 2002. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  29. ^ "2004". Scottish Football Museum. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
  30. ^ "Celtic unveil statue in honour of legend Billy McNeill". Celtic FC. 19 December 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  31. ^ "Celtic: Billy McNeill awarded Athletic Bilbao honour". BBC Sport. 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  32. ^ "Billy McNeill and Malin Moström, awarded by Athletic as One Club Awards". Athletic Bilbao. 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  33. ^ 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
  34. ^ https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/billy-mcneill-obituary-dr2tgpblj
  35. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2019/04/23/billy-mcneill-giant-scottish-football-celtic-captain-led-lisbon/
  36. ^ "'Old' firm legends seek votes". BBC News. BBC. 27 March 2003. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  37. ^ "Family of Billy McNeill confirm he has dementia". BBC News. BBC. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  38. ^ "Family's immense sadness as Celtic legend Billy McNeill passes away". Celtic FC. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  39. ^ The Celtic Football Companion, David Docherty. ISBN 0-85976-173-8, Published 1986.
  40. ^ "Billy McNeill". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman.
  41. ^ Glasgow Cup, Scottish Football Historical Archive
  42. ^ Strack-Zimmermann, Benjamin. "Billy McNeill". www.national-football-teams.com. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  43. ^ "Billy McNeill – Scotland – Scottish FA". www.scottishfa.co.uk. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  44. ^ "Clyde manager Billy McNeill". FitbaStats. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  45. ^ "Aberdeen manager Billy McNeill". FitbaStats. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  46. ^ "Billy McNeill". SFA. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  47. ^ "1985/86 SEASON REVIEW". City Till I Die. 21 June 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  48. ^ "Can Steve Clarke be manager of year if Celtic win treble?". The Scotsman. 2 April 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  49. ^ "Billy McNeill's significant one-season impact as Aberdeen manager". The Scotsman. 23 April 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  50. ^ "SFWA Manager of the Year". The Gem. Retrieved 9 May 2019.

External links[edit]

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