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Billy McNeill, a star that shines brightly

By March 1, 2017No Comments

There are no words I could add to the tributes paid to Billy McNeill and his family that would enhance a reputation, a life full of achievement and memories that have passed across countless generations of Celtic families.

The Greatest ever Celtic captain is suffering from dementia and as the tributes fade until another day, his family have to live with the diminishing light of a man who once stood like a gladiator in the coliseum that was Lisbon in 1967.

I have watched individuals connected to my own family suffer a similar fate and the pain of watching their recollection of family members, friends and a lifetime of memories disappear is heart-breaking.

Liz McNeill and her family deserve tremendous credit in sharing their experience of a disease, as yet incurable, that deprives them of the alert husband and Father they love and admire, without a green and white hoop across his chest.

There are many families that will suffer a similar fate in years to come as people live longer and become more susceptible to this corrosive disease.

There is no doubt in my mind that the football world, PFA, north and south of the border, should do everything it can to help families, if a link to heading the ball can be established conclusively to the onset of dementia.

There are many counter arguments at this minute suggesting dementia has no preference or stronger link to one particular group.

Hopefully, in the future, the research into regular blows to the head from a football or say, a boxing glove, can deliver definitive evidence that this increases the chances of contracting the disease.

For now, all we can do is remember Billy McNeill the way he was and be thankful for the many wonderful memories he has left for us to recollect.

I can recall countless occasions watching him as a boy, striding out on to the field, ball in hand, chest puffed out and ready for battle.

He was everything and more you thought a captain should look like.

I took great pride in sharing with him the fact that we both went to Our Lady’s High school in Motherwell. It was something to brag about. The first British man to lift the European cup was at our school.

I suggested at the start of this short tribute that Billy’s light may be fading because of this terrible disease, but thanks to a million images and countless hours of film footage, the star that is Billy McNeill will always shine brightly in Celtic’s history.

The statue of Billy holding the European cup at the beginning of the Celtic way is how I and many others will always remember the man they call Cesar.