Billy McPhail

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Billy McPhail
Personal information
Full name William S. McPhail
Date of birth (1928-02-02)2 February 1928
Place of birth Glasgow, Scotland
Date of death 4 April 2003(2003-04-04) (aged 75)
Place of death Glasgow, Scotland
Playing position centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1941–1947 Queen's Park 12 (2)
1947–1956 Clyde 137 (90)
1956–1958 Celtic 33 (13)
National team
1952 Scottish League Two XI[1] 1 (3)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

William "Billy" S. McPhail (2 February 1928 – 4 April 2003) was a Scottish football player who played for Celtic, Clyde and Queen's Park. He scored three goals in Celtic's record 7–1 victory over Rangers in the 1957 Scottish League Cup Final. After retiring, he developed a neurodegenerative disease, which he believed to be a result of brain damage acquired from heading footballs. He was the younger brother of John McPhail.


McPhail's 17-year playing career began when he signed for Queen's Park in 1941.[2] He was a centre forward and soon earned the nickname "Teazy Weazy."[3] He was, according to football historian Bob Crampsey, "an extremely graceful player... a particularly good header of a ball"[4] He was then sold to Clyde in 1947, but his career was interrupted with recurring injuries. He had an excellent scoring record whilst at Clyde, scoring 90 goals in 137 league games.

In May 1956 he signed for Celtic, the team his elder brother, John had previously captained. He made his debut in a 2–1 Scottish League Cup win against Aberdeen. Later that season, McPhail scored twice in the League Cup final, helping Celtic lift the trophy for the first time. The following year McPhail starred in the Celtic team that played fierce Old Firm rivals, Rangers in the final of the same competition. The match, referred to by Celtic fans in poem[5] and song[3] as "Hampden in the sun", resulted in a record 7–1 victory to Celtic, with McPhail scoring a hat-trick of goals.[2][6]

A knee and ankle injury forced McPhail to retire the following year, after just two seasons with Celtic.[2] He played just 57 games in all competitions for Celtic, however he is widely described as a "hero" or "idol" for his three goals in the 1957 Cup final.[4][5][7] John McPhail also scored three goals against Rangers, in the 1950 Glasgow Merchants' Charity Cup. This is the only occasion in Old Firm history that brothers have achieved this feat.[8]

Health problems[edit]

According to his wife, Ophelia, McPhail discovered in the 1990s that the left hemisphere of his brain was damaged. Then aged in his 70s, he had displayed signs of dementia since his 30s, and was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.[4] McPhail, with the support of medical specialists, associated the neurological symptoms with heading the leather football used in the 1950s, explaining how "the ball used to get very heavy when it rained – when you took that full in the forehead it nearly knocked you over."[7]

In 1999 McPhail launched a legal case claiming he was entitled to disability payments. However, an Industrial Tribunal didn't accept that a clash of heads during his playing career could have caused the dementia. The Tribunal would not consider whether heading the ball might have contributed, as it categorised that as "part of the job [as a footballer]" and not an industrial injury. The decision was upheld by the Social Security Commissioner of Scotland.[4][9]

McPhail's mental health continued to deteriorate and he died in Glasgow on 4 April 2003.[2][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scottish League Division B team Retrieved 28-10-2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Alford, Mark (12 April 2003). "So Farewell Billy McPail". The Independent – via FindArticles. 
  3. ^ a b "Hampden in the Sun". The North American Federation of Celtic Supporters Clubs. Archived from the original on 11 January 2002. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d Heading for Trouble (transcript), Frontline Scotland, 2 May 2000
  5. ^ a b c Hoops bid farewell to hat-trick legend Billy, News of the World, 6 April 2003
  6. ^ Rej, Arindam . Veterans battle to prove brain damage link, The Guardian, 23 December 2004
  7. ^ a b Headers harmed my brain, says footballer, The Independent, 16 April 1998
  8. ^ Tom Campbell, Glasgow Celtic 1945–1970, Civic Press, 1970
  9. ^ Wade, Mike (12 November 2002). "Coroner rules heading ball killed striker". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 20 May 2005. 

External links[edit]