By the time I came into this world, Billy had already retired from playing football, but his historical status was already woven into the fabric of Celtic Football Club. As club captain he won nine championships, seven Scottish Cups, six League Cups and of course became a Lisbon Lion by winning the European Cup.
With a career in management under way in 1977 with Clyde then Aberdeen, Billy found himself succeeding former manager, mentor and legend in his own right, Jock Stein, in 1978. Could there have been a better person to take over from Jock?
In a five-year spell as Celtic manager, he won three championships, one Scottish Cup and one League Cup. A breakdown with the club’s owners prompted Billy to move on and took up the reins at Manchester City.
He experienced highs and lows at City then toiled with a struggling Aston Villa before returning to Celtic for the club’s centenary season. In his second spell at the club he won one championship and two Scottish Cups in four seasons.
By this point, things were changing in the Scottish game and the mismanagement by Celtic’s owners was leading to the club’s demise. They weren’t just falling behind Rangers, they found themselves behind Aberdeen, Hearts and Dundee United.
Money was changing matters, particularly at Ibrox and Celtic were being run into the ground by the families who had been involved at the club for so many years. As a result of that, McNeill became one of many fall guys.
It didn’t change the supporters’ view of him though. As a right of passage you learn about the Celtic history and Billy was at the core of that history.
A player, a manager, a captain, a Lisbon Lion and an all round gentleman. He will be missed by everyone.
A club icon and legend. Forever in our hearts and minds.