Celtic great Billy McNeill, captain of the Lisbon Lions, has died aged 79

McNeill won more than 30 honours with the club as player and manager

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Former Celtic captain and manager Billy McNeill has died at the age of 79

Celtic great Billy McNeill, captain of the famous 'Lisbon Lions', has died at the age of 79, his family has confirmed.

McNeill became an iconic name in Scottish football after wearing the armband when Celtic famously won the European Cup in 1967, becoming the first British club to do so.

A statement from his family on the Celtic website said: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill.

"He passed away late on Monday (April 22) surrounded by his family and loved ones. He suffered from dementia for a number of years and fought bravely to the end, showing the strength and fortitude he always has done throughout his life.

30/10/06.CELTIC PARK - GLASGOW.Lisbon Lions captain Billy McNeill holds the trophy he helped win in 1967 as he and some former team-mates prepare to fly out to Benfica for Celtic's Champions League tie
Image: Billy McNeill, captain of the Lisbon Lions, has died aged 79

"We would also like to note our love and appreciation to our mother, Liz, for the care, devotion and love she gave to our father throughout his illness. No one could have done any more.

"Whilst this is a very sad time for all the family and we know our privacy will be respected, our father always made time for the supporters so please tell his stories, sing his songs and help us celebrate his life."

Billy McNeill had two successful spells as Celtic manager after his playing days
Image: McNeill had two successful spells as Celtic manager after his hugely successful playing days

McNeill was a major part of the Celtic side which won nine successive Scottish league titles and guiding them to four more championship successes after moving into management.

As a supporter, player, manager and more recently club ambassador, McNeill had an association with Celtic which spanned more than 60 years.

Billy McNeill's association with Celtic lasted more than six decades 0:32
Former Celtic striker Charlie Nicholas says Billy McNeill had the respect of all other football clubs and all the opponents he came up against.

His 18 seasons in the playing ranks coincided with one of the club's most successful spells, McNeill retiring in 1975 with those nine straight Scottish League championships as well as winning seven Scottish Cup and six Scottish League Cup winners medals.

But it was Celtic's 2-1 victory over Inter Milan in the final of the 1966-67 European Cup which will live longest in the memory, McNeill leading his side to victory over one of the most-feared teams in world football and becoming the first British captain to lift the trophy.

Billy McNeill's association with Celtic lasted more than six decades
Image: Billy McNeill's association with Celtic lasted more than six decades

The victory in Portugal ended a season which saw Celtic win an unprecedented five trophies, adding all three domestic titles as well as the then fiercely-contested Glasgow Cup.

McNeill went into management soon after his retirement, starting out with Clyde and Aberdeen, and he returned to Celtic in 1978 where he would secure the league title on the final day of the season with a famous 4-2 win over Rangers.

Two more titles would follow in his first spell in charge, which came to an end in 1983 when he moved to England to manage Manchester City, then a Second Division team, and guided them to promotion.

Billy McNeill is immortalised in bronze outside Celtic Park
Image: Billy McNeill is immortalised in bronze outside Celtic Park

McNeill moved on from City to Aston Villa early in the 1986-87 season - one which saw both teams relegated - before returning to Celtic the following summer and overseeing a league and cup double in his first year back, which just happened to be Celtic's centenary season.

But a Scottish Cup victory in 1989 would be his last honour with the club, which had hit some difficult financial times, and he was sacked in 1991 from what turned out to be his last full-time managerial role.

McNeill, who was given an MBE in 1974, was voted Celtic's greatest-ever captain in 2002 and returned to the club he had served for so many years in 2009 as an ambassador, his crowning glory coming in 2015 when he was immortalised in bronze as an iconic statue outside Celtic Park celebrating that famous day in Lisbon.

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