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Archbishop tried to get knighthoods for Old Firm legends

Leo Cushley wanted Billy McNeill and John Greig to receive the ultimate honour from the Queen.

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh tried to secure knighthoods for Old Firm legends Billy McNeill and John Greig, STV News can reveal.

Leo Cushley, who is "not a great football supporter", believes the 1967 European Cup-winning captain McNeill should have been made a Sir before his death in April.

The leading Catholic church figure said the idea occurred to him as he enjoyed the Lisbon Lions' 50th anniversary celebrations as a guest of Celtic.

He enlisted the support of the club and the Lord Provost of Glasgow to bolster his claim.

"It would have completed something that has warmed the hearts of many people in Celtic Football Club and beyond," Archibishop Cushley said.

Archbishop Leo Cushley.
Archbishop Leo Cushley. SWNS

McNeill won 31 major honours as a player and eight as a manager, becoming one of Celtic's most decorated figures.

He was awarded an MBE in 1974 and just as he died was recognised by the Basque club Athletic Bilbao with their 'One Club Man' award.

When the nominations were made, Archbishop Cushley drew attention to McNeill's poor health.

He said: "Billy at that point was more diminished in his health and it seemed to me that it was perhaps a useful opportunity at that time for him to receive such an honour."

Mindful of the intense footballing rivalry in Glasgow, he decided to add the name of the former Rangers captain and manager John Greig to the nomination.

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1437487-bernard-ponsonby-s-touching-farewell-to-billy-mcneill/ | default

He said: "John Greig was also a very distinguished sportsman and I thought there would be some symmetry about that.

"Both these men are great heroes to their respective communities and football clubs."

It can, however, take a while for honours to be agreed and asked whether a future Sir John might have cause to thank the Archbishop, he said: "You never know."

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