Bertie Auld: 'Billy could have been anything he wanted'
The Lisbon Lion has shared his memories of playing alongside the iconic Celtic captain.
Bertie Auld has described Celtic great Billy McNeill as a credit to the club and an inspirational figure.
McNeill died on Monday at the age of 79, following a long struggle with dementia and figures across the footballing world have been paying tribute to the iconic Scot.
Auld, a fellow member of the Celtic team that won the European Cup in 1967, had a friendship with McNeill that stretched back 60 years and said the former defender could have been a success in any field.
Asked what marked the Celtic captain out from others, Auld told STV: "He was educated. He could have been anything he wanted to be.
"I met when he was 17. Big Jock [Stein, the Celtic manager] signed him. Jock recommended him and signed him.
"I had just finished training and he was at the bottom of the tunnel, so I went over and shook his hand and said 'Great, son. I hope you enjoy it'.
"He was very articulate in everything that he did. He was a credit to Celtic Football Club."
McNeill's leadership qualities were a key part of Celtic's success as they won nine successive league titles and a host of domestic cups. Auld said his captain would keep his talented teammates in line and drive them on to victories.
"That's why he was such an important person," he said. "On the park he could see us carrying on, and you would never ever notice it during the game, but John Clark or Billy would just come up and have a wee whisper - 'enough of the kidding on'.
"The chest was out and he was six-foot 40-something. I promise you, walking down next to him you felt that comfortable."
McNeill went on to become a successful Celtic manager, clinching four league titles over two spells and a domestic double in the club's centenary year of 1988.
He added: "He always loved Celtic and wanted to manage Celtic and rightly so. That's the type of character he was.
"He was a great captain. If things weren't going right, when Bob Kelly was the chairman, Billy could talk to him. I couldn't, he would have papped me out of the door!"
McNeill was capped by Scotland 29 times and wore the armband for the national team, but his friend said he should have had more reward for his talents at international level.
"I didn't think he got as many caps as he should have because he was outstanding as a player," Auld said. "All you have to do is look at the history of him.
"As far as I was concerned, he had more than people appreciated. The Celtic support appreciated him but he wasn't one that came out with stories to tell or that would have made headlines. He let his football do that.
"Everybody looked up to him."