Northern Ireland news

Celtic Park match tribute to 'greatest ever captain' Billy McNeill

A club scarf on the statue of Billy McNeill at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Photo: Lucy Christie/PA Wire
Mairead Holland

A MATCH tomorrow at Glasgow's Celtic Park will be a celebration of the life of former player and manager Billy McNeill, who passed away on Monday at the age of 79.

Mr McNeill, who has been hailed as the club's greatest captain, led the 'Lisbon Lions' to the European Cup in 1967 with victory over Inter Milan.

He also captained Celtic to nine league titles in a row in the 1960s and 70s before two spells as boss at Parkhead and Celtic.

Members of Mr McNeill's family have been invited to the match and before kick-off there will be video tributes to the Hoops legend.

The first team will lay a wreath on the Celtic Way, where his statue stands, and players will wear a special armband, bearing the number 5, which Mr McNeill made his own during his playing days.

At the request of the McNeill family, a minute's applause will take place prior to the 12.30pm kick-off.

A statement from the family carried on the Celtic FC Facebook page said: "We do not believe football stadiums were ever built to be to be silent. Our father would not have wanted that. They should be places of noise, passion and enjoyment.

"Football was his life and Celtic Park was a very large part of that. So please celebrate his life with a moment of cheers, songs and applause because that would make him feel at home again."

The funeral of Mr McNeill will take place next Friday, May 3, at St Aloysius Church in Garnethill, Glasgow.

The cortege will pass the football ground, where thousands of fans are expected to turn out to bid farewell, before travelling through the city's streets and on to a family interment.

Mr McNeill, nicknamed Cesar, died following a battle with dementia. He is survived by his wife Liz and five children.

Among those who have paid homage to the club stalwart is Lurgan-born Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who described him as "our greatest ever captain and one of our greatest ever players".

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