When Billy McNeill led the Lisbon Lions onto the pitch for the 1967 European Cup final, ball under his arm, it was obvious he meant business. Here was a real leader, a born captain. Destiny was waiting.
McNeill, who has passed away at the age of 79, became the first Briton to lift the cup after Celtic defeated Inter Milan 2-1, the pinnacle of a trophy-littered career as both a player and a manager.
Such success would have gone to the heads of many lesser footballers, but not McNeill, who had the calm confidence of a real winner and yet was modest about his considerable achievements.
It is often said that no one is as big as the club but in a way, despite Celtic’s considerable size, McNeill almost was.
Such fulsome tributes are sometimes given glibly following a sporting star’s death, but it is absolutely true in his case. This was a man who won universal respect because of his qualities as a player, a captain and a human being.
If only more people, in football and beyond, were like him. He was a person to aspire to be like. We have lost a genuinely great Scot.