Billy McNeill remembered: 'He was just entirely splendid'
Renowned writer and football commentator Archie Macpherson pays tribute to the Celtic legend.
Renowned football commentator Archie Macpherson has paid tribute to "magnificent" Celtic legend Billy McNeill.
The first British man to lift the European Cup in 1967 died on Monday aged 79 after a battle with dementia.
Speaking on Scotland Tonight, Macpherson said: "He played for the jersey. That was his utmost ambition, to make that jersey successful and he did just that."
Talking to presenter John MacKay, the veteran broadcaster shared his stories and memories of the Lisbon Lion.
Archie: Well, he read the game brilliantly. And he also dovetailed when John Clark played beside him and it was a wonderful combination. He had not enough caps for Scotland. And perhaps it was because many players play at a club level, at a certain level and a certain quality because they know the players around them and maybe the international scene at times just didn't suit his particular play. He was magnificent in the air. I mean he was just entirely splendid.
Sometimes we forget some of the moments that pushed Celtic to Lisbon. For example, the glittering sunshine of Lisbon and the triumph and the raising of the cup sometimes makes us forget those darker, murkier moments. For example, with two minutes to go, even less than that, at Parkhead, I was sitting on top of the Jungle and our commentary position thinking, 'Celtic are about to slip here'. Playing against Beaujolais Dena, Jock Stein sitting in the dugout beside Sean Fallon and I actually turned to Sean and said, 'there's going to be damn well Rotterdam', which is what we're going to do if the game ended an aggregate draw.
Watch: Bernard Ponsonby's obituary to Billy McNeill
Suddenly a corner-kick was taken on the right wing, I always remember only too well and in he came. He simply powered the ball into the net in a typical Billy McNeill header. That single goal and that single moment, coming as it did towards the end of the game when it seemed always laws changed the whole era for Celtic. Had he not scored at that time he would have gone to Rotterdam. Heaven only knows what would have happened then.
So that single moment by that man leading by example, if you could put it that way, got Celtic through to Lisbon eventually.
John: It was an iconic moment probably the iconic moment in Scottish Cup football, Billy McNeill holding aloft the European Cup and he had the stature to do that. That is an iconic image.
Archie: Exactly two people have been asking me why he was captain, well he looked a captain. He was a handsome guy as I've said previously you can be pug ugly and still be a good footballer but he just had all he had these matinee idol looks, blondish, tanned. Impressive in that way, the way he held himself very straight backed, the way he played the game and consequently that commanding posture. He had that presence, the aura that sometimes you can't explain to people but it commands attention.