Born: 2 February, 1928, in Glasgow
Died: 4 April, 2003, in Canniesburn Hospital, aged 75
BILLY McPhail may have spent just two years at Parkhead but the striker ensured he will be enshrined as a genuine Celtic legend.
His hat-trick in one of Celtic’s most famous victories, the remarkable 7-1 League Cup final defeat of Rangers at Hampden in 1957, was the obvious highlight of a playing career which was cut short cruelly by injury the following year when he was 30.
McPhail achieved fame in later life by waging a legal battle for compensation for the onset of pre-senile dementia which he claimed had been caused by his frequent heading of heavy leather footballs. He lost his case, although his stance was later vindicated when an English coroner recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease on Jeff Astle, the former West Bromwich Albion and England striker, who had the same complaint. McPhail - like Astle - made his name as a great header of the ball. Indeed, his League Cup final hat-trick against Rangers consisted of three headed goals.
McPhail, it seems, like hundreds before him, suffered in an era when footballs were heavier than now. Weighing in at 1lb, the absorbent leather balls could double in weight during a rainy game, and it was not uncommon for players to be knocked out by the ball. One expert recently compared the impact of the ball to "being hit by a good amateur boxer".
Born in Glasgow, McPhail attended St Mungo’s Academy and started his football career with Queen’s Park in 1944. He was unable to claim the centre-forward position with the Amateurs, and in 1947 moved to Clyde. Ironically, Celtic were also interested in him at that time, but were unwilling to match the signing-on fee McPhail was offered by the Shawfield club.
He established himself as one of Scottish football’s brightest number-nines, although he was dogged by injuries, one of which ruled him out of the 1955 Scottish Cup final which saw Clyde defeat a Celtic side which included his older brother, the Scotland international John McPhail.
In May the following year, Billy was sold to Celtic for 2,500 and he endeared himself to the Celtic supporters in October 1956 when he scored twice in the 3-0 victory over Partick Thistle at Hampden in the League Cup final replay.
It was the first time Celtic had won the trophy, but they would retain it in staggering fashion the following season, an occasion which is secondary perhaps only to the 1967 European Cup final triumph in Parkhead folklore.
In front of 82,293 at Hampden, Rangers were swept aside with a breathtaking display of free-flowing football. John Valentine, the Ibrox club’s centre-half, was given a torrid afternoon by McPhail and would see his Rangers career end soon afterwards.
Sammy Wilson and Neil Mochan put Celtic 2-0 in front at half-time. McPhail added number three eight minutes into the second half. Billy Simpson pulled a goal back for Rangers, but McPhail went on to complete his hat-trick, Mochan claimed another and Willie Fernie sealed the rout with a last-minute penalty.
In all, McPhail scored 38 goals in 57 appearances for Celtic before being forced to hang up his boots by knee and ankle injuries in 1958.
Nicknamed "Teazy Weazy" by his team-mates, because of his resemblance to a TV hairdresser of the time who used that name, McPhail went into the hairdressing business and later ran a restaurant.