When tickets went on sale for Saturday’s game against Kilmarnock the hope of many was that this would be the game 8-in-a-row would be tied up. What could have been a party will instead be a day we gather to respect the memory of our greatest ever captain.
Many, especially the older generation, will just want to be at Celtic Park on Saturday, to sit among friends and recall times of joy and angst.
Memories of Vojvodina, Cruyff – three times, 10 men, standing nose-to-nose with a referee on the touchline. Of the utter joy that was the Centenary Season, the glory and celebrations of a lifetime at the top of the game. Other fields bestowed greater prizes on Billy, but Celtic Park was home. I’m glad we will gather there this weekend.
I loved Cruyff, but he had an edge to him. He twice got the better of Billy in the early 70s, those encounters leaving an aftertaste that lasted until the 1982 European Cup meeting between Celtic and Ajax, when Billy was manager and Johan back as a player at Ajax. After a first leg draw at Celtic Park Johan made a dismissive comment that loosely translated as ‘getting the better of McNeill as a manager, as well as a player’. The Dutchman was silenced in Amsterdam two weeks later.