CELTIC legend Billy McNeill made his name as one of the most commanding centre-backs ever produced in this country.
The Lisbon Lion made 29 appearances for Scotland, but one of his most successful outings for his nation came in a match 60 years ago when he played at RIGHT-BACK.
It was McNeill’s one and only outing in the No.2 shirt at international level as he answered an SOS to play in a position in which he had only featured a few times after joining up at Parkhead from Junior side Blantyre Vics in 1957.
The Scots had arranged a three-match tour in June 1963, but had flopped in their first two matches – 4-3 against Norway in Bergen and 1-to the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
SCOTLAND THE RAVE…Billy McNeill poses in his international strip.
Dundee’s reliable Alec Hamilton played on the right side of the defence in both defeats, but was struggling to face Spain in the Bernabeu in the third and final outing of the 10-day tour.
Caesar was switched from central defence to right-back in a makeshift rearguard with Ian Ure, of the Dens Park club, taking over in the middle. The hosts, a super power in world football with Real Madrid the acclaimed masters of the European club scene, were massive favourites to inflict a third consecutive defeat on Ian McColl’s team.
It looked as though everything was going according to script when Rodriguez Adelardo netted in eight minutes, but the iconic Denis Law, captain on this occasion, levelled shortly afterwards with his eleventh goal in seven internationals that season.
Moments later, Leicester City midfielder David Gibson shot the Scots into the lead and, amazingly, the visitors were 4-1 ahead after half-an-hour following goals from Frank McLintock and Davie Wilson.
Jose Veloso pulled one back just before the break, but any chance of a fightback by the much-vaunted hosts was dynamited when Willie Henderson scored a fifth just six minutes after the turnaround.
LEGENDS TOGETHER…Billy McNeill and Alfredo di Stefano shake hands before the Real Madrid great’s testimonial match at the Bernabeu Stadium in June 1967 – 13 days after Celtic had won the European Cup in Lisbon.
Liverpool’s Ian St John completed a joyous occasion in the Spanish capital when he walloped in another seven minutes from time to make the final score a truly astonishing 6-2 in favour of McNeill and Co.
Years later, the Celtic great recalled: “Scotland were a team better suited for attacking football. The forward players were quite content to let the defenders do all the work at the back.
“We couldn’t complain that evening in Madrid, though – all five forwards got on the scoresheet. I had played right-back before, of course, but it was not my favoured position.
“However, it was simply marvellous to be out on that famous pitch on a night when Scotland tore up the formbook.”
McNeill returned to the arena four years later in his more recognisable role in the middle of the defence when a goal from Bobby Lennox gave the newly-crowned European champions a 1-0 triumph in the Alfredo di Stefano Testimonial Match.
For the record, the Scotland team in that remarkable rout of the spaniards was: Adam Blacklaw (Burnley); Billy McNeill (Celtic), Davie Holt (Hearts); Frank McLintock (Leicester City), Ian Ure (Dundee), Jim Baxter (Rangers); Willie Henderson (Rangers), Davie Gibson (Leicester City), Ian St John (Liverpool), Denis Law (Manchester United) and Davie Wilson (Rangers).
FOOTNOTE: A similar result would be more than welcome in the Euro 24 qualifier in Seville tonight.