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BILLY REMEMBERED: JIM CRAIG

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IT’S Day Ten of CQN’s two-week tribute to Celtic legend Billy McNeill.

We are publishing EXCLUSIVE edited extracts from author Alex Gordon’s book in honour of the club great, ‘BILLY McNEILL: In Praise of Caesar’, which was published in August last year.

Today his fellow-Lisbon Lion Jim Craig reveals a treasured memory of his ex-colleague and lifelong friend.

I MET Billy McNeill for the first time on March 29 1961 when I was captaining Scotland Under-17 Schoolboys against England at Parkhead.

I recall Rangers were playing a European Cup-Winners’ Cup semi-final first leg against Wolves at Ibrox the same evening.

Glasgow was awash with football fans, but they all appeared to be heading for Govan and not the east end of the city. I believe almost 80,000 took in that tie. It was a slightly more modest gate at the place where I would spend so many memorable years.

Billy was already a Celtic first team player at that time and he was brought into the dressing room before the match. He was obviously being held up as an example of what you could achieve in the game if you applied yourself.

We knew he, too, had played for Scotland at this level and clearly what he had achieved was something for us all to strive for and hope to attain.

I remember him being a very down-to-earth chap, very approachable and if you had told me I would have been standing toe to toe with the big chap just over six years later and picking up a European Cup medal, I would have had you certified.

Because of my dental studies, I was a part-timer when I joined Celtic. Billy was most helpful from day one. I was always very much aware of him and what he was to Celtic Football Club.

*TOMORROW: Another legend reveals his special Billy McNeill recollections.

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