CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers has called for the Lisbon Lions to be knighted.

The Hoops gaffer believes it is time Billy McNeill and Co were given the recognition they deserve in the 50th anniversary of their historic European Cup success.

Jock Stein’s players became the first British side to be crowned kings of the continent after their spectacular 2-1 win over Inter Milan in the Portuguese capital on May 25, 1967.

But legendary boss Jock Stein and his team of heroes were never awarded knighthoods.

Matt Busby was immediately knighted after leading Manchester United to European Cup glory 12 months later with Alex Ferguson given the same honour when he lifted the trophy as part of a treble in 1999.

In a week when the club and its fans are mourning the death of Tommy Gemmell, who scored the all-important equaliser against the Italians, current boss Rodgers admitted he is amazed that they have been ignored by Buckingham Palace.

Secret papers released under Freedom of Information by the Scottish Executive a decade ago claim Stein was denied an honour from the Queen after the Celtic players were involved in a brawl during their World Club Championship play-off against Argentinian side Racing Club.

But asked if they deserved honours, Rodgers said: “Absolutely. For what they done. You see these things handed out left, right and centre now, but these guys are true icons and they put the signpost in the ground for British football.

“I have got to say that I find it hard to understand why they haven’t been commemorated in a greater way. For a Scottish team to win the European Cup, they really set the trail for every other British club.

“What they inspired of others to go on and do – managers and coaches – they really pointed the way. At that time, for 11 players within a 30 mile radius from Celtic Park, just doesn’t happen.

“It’s not too late for them to get onto the Honours List. These types of achievements are given out to people who devote their lives to something or do something exceptional and I’m nearly sure that everyone would say that’s what they’ve done.

“Sometimes these things can come too late. I always think that if you can honour good people and people who have truly achieved something, then these guys absolutely deserve it.

“Look at the way they carry themselves. I was at a club function on Thursday for the foundation and Bobby Lennox was there, John Clark, Bertie Auld, these are guys that have lived the life of a Lisbon Lion. They’ve played that role with great honour and esteem for the club.”

Rodgers admitted it he was saddened by the news of Gemmell’s passing, aged 73. He said: “It was a real sadness for the football club because we have lost one of the truly great footballers in the history of Celtic.

“He was an iconic player – 418 appearances for this club. Everyone talks about the modern full-back and how they get forward but he was doing that in the 60s.

“For a full-back to score in two European Cup finals and defend how he defended really tells you everything about the guy as a football player.”


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