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Billy McNeill was ‘loved by all the players’ – Frank McGarvey

McNeill captained Celtic to the European Cup and managed the club for two spells.

Tributes have been paid to Celtic great Billy McNeill (Jeff Holmes/PA)
Tributes have been paid to Celtic great Billy McNeill (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Former Celtic striker Frank McGarvey has praised Billy McNeill as a “fantastic man” following his death.

The 79-year-old, who had been suffering with dementia, died on Monday night with his family by his side.

McNeill played for Celtic for his whole career, captaining the side in the glory days of Jock Stein’s management and becoming the first British player to lift the European Cup in 1967.

He subsequently managed Celtic for two periods, signing McGarvey from Liverpool in 1980.

McGarvey told Press Association Sport: “It is a very, very sad day.

“He was loved by all the players and you don’t hear that about all managers.

“He was the captain of the first team to win the European Cup. As a manager, he was a great manager.

“He won a lot of trophies with Celtic on and off the pitch but not only that, he was a great person, a fantastic man.

“He would do anything to help you. He will be sadly missed.”

McNeill’s death has brought an outpouring of tributes, including from current Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

In a statement posted on the club’s website, Lennon said: “This is such sad news and I want to send thoughts and prayers to Liz and all the family from myself and all the backroom staff here at the club.

“I love Billy’s statue, which is the first thing you see whenever you walk up The Celtic Way.

“It’s the perfect image of him, holding aloft the European Cup, and it will remind future generations of supporters of what a great Celtic man he was.”

Football pundit and former Celtic striker Chris Sutton tweeted: “Such heartbreaking news.

“Billy McNeill was an inspirational leader, a legend and a lion. Thoughts go out to his family and the Celtic family.”

McNeill’s managerial career also included spells with Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa.

Aberdeen tweeted: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our former manager, Billy McNeill who has passed away at the age of 79.”

A message from City read: “We are sad to learn of the passing of Billy McNeill who managed the Club between 1983-86.

“Everyone at Manchester City would like to send our sincere condolences to Billy’s family.”

McNeil’s former team-mate Jim Craig tweeted: “Heartbroken over the passing of my great friend and captain Billy McNeill.

“A huge blow for the Celtic family but a devastating loss for Liz, Susan Libby Carol, Paula and Martyn.

“My thoughts and prayers are with them today. RIP my friend.”

Hoops skipper Scott Brown told the club’s website: “Wearing the captain’s armband at Celtic is a great honour and privilege and it’s something that I’ve been lucky enough to have done over the past few years.

“However, there will only be one greatest ever Celtic captain and that is Billy McNeill.

“All of the players at the club are deeply saddened to hear of Billy’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

“Billy set the benchmark as a Celtic player and captain, and that’s something everyone who pulls on the jersey has to aspire to.

“He won every honour in the game with Celtic including, of course, the European Cup, and I can only imagine how he must have felt when he lifted that trophy in Lisbon back in 1967.

“He will always be remembered as a true Celtic legend and one of our greatest ever players.”

The Scotland national team tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of former Scotland and @CelticFC captain Billy McNeill, a true icon of Scottish football. We will not see his likes again.”

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