BERTIE AULD and John Hughes were two former long-time Celtic team-mates of Billy McNeill.

The trio were all signed by club legend Jimmy McGrory who held the position as manager of the club from 1945 until Jock Stein’s arrival in 1965.

McNeill joined his boyhood idols in 1957, Auld in 1955 and Hughes in 1959.

Back on August 24 2018, CQN entered the debate over McNeill’s nickname: Caesar or Cesar?

Hughes, affectionately known as Big Yogi in his playing days, was adamant on the point.

“Billy McNeill is known to his Celtic mates as Caesar after the Roman General,” insisted the eighth-highest scorer with 189 goals in the club’s history.

BOYS WILL BE BHOYS…Billy McNeill and John Hughes at the start of their Celtic careers with the famous Jungle in the background.

“Yes, I am aware the nickname originally came from a Hollywood actor by the name of Cesar Romero. That was back in 1960 when a lot of the Celtic players went to see a Frank Sinatra movie called ‘Ocean’s Eleven’.

“The likes of Big Billy, Bertie Auld, Mike Jackson, Pat Crerand and John Colrain watched the film one afternoon at the Odeon in Glasgow city centre and all decided to take nicknames from the cast.

“Wee Bertie became ‘Sammy D’ after Sammy Davis Jnr who was a black actor and comedian. It’s not very politically correct these days, but Bertie used to have this dark growth and had to shave about twice a day.

“Mike Jackson became ‘Dino’ after Dean Martin, the actor and singer. Mike was a bit of a chanter who could hold a note or two, so he became ‘Dino’.

“There was a straight-faced comedian called Joey Bishop in the movie, too, and Pat Crerand was lumbered with ‘Joey’ for a while before he returned to Paddy.

“John Colrain was an under-rated centre-forward who was a massive fan of Sinatra who played the title role of Danny Ocean who was the leader of a gang who were planning to rob a Las Vegas casino. So, he became ‘Danny O’.

“And Cesar Romero was the driver of the getaway car. Billy was the only Celtic player with a car back then, so he did all the driving. Hence he picked up the moniker ‘Cesar’.

“But that morphed into ‘Caesar’ after the European Cup Final in Lisbon in 1967. Big Billy just looked so imperious as he held aloft that huge trophy in the Portuguese capital with sunshine streaming down.

The book titles call Billy McNeill ‘Caesar’ and the newspapers claim ‘Cesar’. 

“To many of the Celtic supporters that is the most iconic image in the club’s history.

“So, what do you think? Caesar after a famous figure from history? Or a Grade B actor whose main claim to fame was appearing as ‘The Joker’ in the Batman TV series in the sixties?

“I think you can understand why anyone who knows Big Billy will refer to him as ‘Caesar’.”

Author Alex Gordon, who wrote the book in honour of his friend and Hoops great, entitled ‘Billy McNeill: In Praise of Caesar‘, said: “I interviewed over 40 significant personalities in Billy’s career, friends and foes alike, for the tribute and they also went with the Roman General.

“More than a few had never heard of Cesar Romero. Many believed it was just a different spelling of Caesar.

“I was well aware of the original ‘Cesar’, but I agree with Yogi and the likes of Wee Bertie that the Celtic legend deserved a step up in class.

HAMPDEN HEROES…John Hughes and Bertie Auld congratulate Billy McNeill after his winner in the 3-2 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Dunfermline in April 1965.

“That’s why I entitled another book in 2014 ‘Caesar and the Assassin’about the Celtic managerial careers of Billy and Davie Hay, who, of course, was nicknamed ‘The Quiet Assassin‘, the title of his 2009 autobiography I was honoured to co-author.

“I’ve known both these wonderful guys for decades and never once has Cesar Romero ever cropped up in conversation.

“So, I’ve always gone with ‘Caesar’ and not ‘Cesar’. I noticed in the newspapers yesterday, they were still calling him ‘Cesar’ after the actor.

“Actually, I asked the Hoops icon’s wife Liz if she had a preference. Logically, she replied: ‘No, not really, I’ve always called him Billy’. Seems reasonable, I suppose!”

CQN decided to conduct a vote among the Celtic fans over four years ago. Overwhelmingly, they backed Caesar.

Exactly 87% (258 votes) voted for the Roman General and 13% (38 votes) opted for the Hollywood actor. Total voters: 296.

Hail Caesar? Or Hail Cesar? It’s entirely up to you!

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss Part One of the Caesar Chronicles – only in your champion CQN.


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