CQN continues its EXCLUSIVE series to salute Celtic’s Greatest-Ever skipper Billy McNeill.
Author Alex Gordon, who has had fifteen Celtic books published, including ‘Caesar and The Assassin‘ and ‘Lisbon Lions: The 40th Anniversary Celebration‘, interviewed many of the club legend’s team-mates and opponents for his tribute tome, ‘In Praise of Caesar‘, which was published in 2018.
Over the next three days, CQN will publish a selection of edited memories. Today Willie Wallace has his say.
POOR Billy got lumbered with all sort of stuff as the players’ spokesman.
However, there was a clear bond between Big Jock and the captain. I know some players thought Billy got preferential treatment when the manager was having a go if he wasn’t happy after a performance that didn’t satisfy him.
Everyone was fair game, apart from Billy. But what a few of them wouldn’t have known was that Billy would get a call to see Jock in his office afterwards and he would be criticised in private. Jock obviously thought the club’s captain deserved to keep his dignity in the dressing room.
“But Billy got a boot up the backside like the rest of us when Jock was displeased.
PUSH OFF…Willie Wallace is put under pressure by an Inter Milan defender in Lisbon 67.
I played against Billy a few times when I was with Hearts and recall some great duels. When we faced Celtic back then we were ordered to keep the ball on the deck. We reasoned Billy was so good in the air, it was pointless slinging in high crosses.
We believed we would have more chance of success of playing passes on the ground, but then you encountered John Clark and his anticipation was uncanny. So, we knew it was never going to be an easy ride against Celtic no matter which tactics we used.
Everyone accepted Billy was just the best in the air and some have said he wasn’t the best passer of the ball. Maybe that wasn’t his strength, but he more than made up for it in other ways.
However, I’m not sure my big buddy would have appreciated a team talk from Jock before one particular game shortly after I had joined.
‘Okay, you guys,’ said The Boss, looking at some individuals in his defence. ‘Don’t mess about today. Just make sure you give the ball to the guys who can play.’
Big Billy was speechless.