Big Billy, the Giant's Giant.

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Joe O'Rourke
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Big Billy, the Giant's Giant.

Postby Joe O'Rourke » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:49 am

I don’t suppose it should have come as a shock to hear the tragic news that our Greatest ever Captain Big Billy McNeill had passed away. Billy has been not been well for about ten years, and you always knew that time was not on his side. But it was the same for me as when my own Father died, he had been in hospital and was very frail, but it still came as a terrible shock when he passed away in front of my eyes on December 9th 1981.

Big Billy was the Giant’s Giant, a Colossus of a Man, when Cesar walked into a room everyone shrunk in his presence. But within that presence and stature lay a very humble human being. Billy was very comfortable in his own skin, there was no ambition to be anyone other than Billy McNeill, Captain of the World Famous Lisbon Lions of Glasgow Celtic, Billy had achieved everything he ever dreamt of when he was young, and that was very satisfying for him and his Family.

Billy managed to transcend the great divide between Celtic and Rangers, the players at that time were happy in each other’s company. Billy has great respect for John Greig, just as John has for Billy, he was also very friendly with Jim Baxter, Willie Henderson, and the late Sandy Jardine. When you read the comments on social media about Billy, you realise the vast amount of players and teams that he had an effect on, as well as supporters from many many teams. Not many former players have gained that respect.

I’m not a big fan of awards through politics, there are plenty of people who put their life on the line to help others who should be recognised, but I must say, if anyone in the UK deserved to get a Knighthood through football, then Big Billy did. Billy got awarded an MBE in 1974, but that award never matched the level of achievement that Billy reached. I believe that a lot of football people in England resented Celtic winning the European Cup first, they wanted to spout on about how they were the best, but Big Billy and his Lions of Lisbon foiled all that, and they changed the way football in Europe was played as a result.

Everyone talks about the great Dutch teams of Feyenoord and Ajax, and how they introduced total football, well that is wrong, the team who invented total football was Jock Stein’s Glasgow Celtic, we showed the way, and others followed. If you look at the stats for that wonderful day in Lisbon, Celtic had 64% possession, resulting in 45 shots at goal, I would suggest even the great final in 1960 between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt was not as one sided.

There has been a lot written in the media about Billy, and it has all been complimentary, and thoroughly deserved, I could sit here all day writing about Cesar, but there are others better equipped than I to do that, I, like all the other members of the Celtic Family, am totally devastated at the loss of our greatest ever Captain, my thoughts and prayers are for Elizabeth and all the Family, as well as his Team Mates.
Hail Cesar, Requiescat in pace Billy, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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