On Saturday, Celtic payed tribute to club legend, Billy McNeill. The laying of wreaths took place pre-match in front of the former club captain’s statue and an emotional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone rang around Celtic Park before kick-off.
The players and coaching staff all wore armbands with a “5” on it, in recognition of the man who wore the number with such distinction and success. The match itself was no different to any of the other performances we’ve seen of late, that was until something poignant and spectacular occurred.
With an eighth title in sight, Celtic have continued with laboured performances home and away. Goals have not come easy and sometimes not at all, but domestically we remain unbeaten in 2019.
Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock made Celtic’s struggle more uphill, as well as looking the more likely team to score. At half time it remained 0-0 and as the second half wore on, our patience and hope of a win was wearing thin.
Then came the moment in the match that got everyone. A goal scored by number 5 with 67 minutes on the clock.
There aren’t two numbers with greater significance that could’ve summed up Billy McNeill’s career and relationship with Celtic. As the realisation filtered amongst the onlookers, it’s fair to say the Celtic community was awash with emotional delight.
Jozo Simunovic’s header at the rear post was reminiscent of the type Billy was known for. There was a eeriness in the celebration because of that.
Whilst Jozo is not renowned for scoring goals, he will no doubt remember this one for the rest of his days. His presentation of his shirt to the McNeill family was a nice touch from the defender who himself appeared to be overcome with emotion.
With Billy’s funeral this Friday and the death of his former team mate Stevie Chalmers today, the Celtic community continues to mourn. It is a tragic time for the McNeill and Chalmers families and we grieve with them.