Billy McNeill was born on March 2, 1940. He is a born leader. His ability to bring a strong presence to the field allowed him to become captain of Celtic while his talents as a player made him an essential part the team.
Everyone seems to know that Billy McNeill's nickname is Cesar. When they think of him, they have images of the rampaging Roman leader, Julius Caesar.
When you see the pictures of Billy McNeill holding aloft the European Cup in 1967 upon being presented with the trophy, after the victory over Inter Milan, it is easy to see how the comparisons come about.
Cries and headlines of "Hail Cesar" jump to the minds of many when his name is mentioned.
His nickname, however, is "Cesar" and not "Caesar".
"Cesar" actually derives from being one of the only Celtic team players to own a vehicle at the time, and was inspired by a role in the movie, Ocean's 11 (the original version), played by the actor Cesar Romero. He played the gang's getaway driver in the film.
However this mistake is perpetuated even by Billy himself, as he named his autobiography Hail Cesar.
Photo used with permission
Billy McNeill is best known for captaining Celtic to the European Championship in 1967. This drew immense publicity because they were the first British club to be successful in Europe.
Billy has one of the most successful playing careers to date, appearing for Celtic more than 800 times and for Scotland over 30 times.
Billy was signed for Celtic from a local junior team: Blantyre Victoria. At the time, this was typical. Most clubs did not have youth systems, and most youngsters that had potential played in the Junior Leagues to gain experience and toughen up.
McNeill played for his school team, Our Lady of Lourdes, before Celtic. When he signed for Celtic, he played on defense as a center back, but due to poor coaching and management, he hung up his boots until the arrival of fellow soccer player Jock Stein, who convinced him to return. Billy and the club are forever thankful for this.
Billy McNeill not only commanded respect from his teammates but also the opposition; he was a born leader. His strength in the air and in the tackle, combined with his organizational skills, gave him a cutting edge over others.
Not one person to this day has a bad word to say about Billy. He treats everyone fairly. He is a family man who picks up his grandchildren from St. Cadoc's Roman Catholic school every day.
This man is the one who got British soccer recognized, led the first team to win the European Cup, and will be forever a Celtic legend and a soccer icon in Britain.
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