Thousands line streets for Celtic great McNeill's funeral

Glasgow (AFP) –


Thousands lined the streets of Glasgow for the funeral of Celtic great Billy McNeill on Friday as they paid their respects to one of Scottish football's all-time greats.

Former Celtic captain McNeill, the skipper of the Lisbon Lions side that in 1967 became the first British team to win the European Cup, died aged 79 on April 23.

McNeill won 31 trophies in total during his time as a player and manager with Celtic and there were large crowds as the funeral cortege made its way from a city-centre church, past a packed George Square through the east end of Glasgow to Celtic Park.

Celtic have also been in mourning for another Lisbon Lion in Stevie Chalmers, the scorer of their winning goal in the 1967 final against Inter Milan after he died just days after O'Neill. Both men had been suffering from dementia.

The Archbishop of Glasgow delivered a eulogy at St Aloysius Church in Rose Street, where the congregation included the surviving Lisbon Lions -- Bertie Auld, Jim Craig, Bobby Lennox, John Clark and Australia-based Willie Wallace -- as well as major Scottish football figures such as Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson and the current Celtic first-team squad.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia offered his sympathies to McNeill's wife, Liz, and their five children and eight grandchildren, some of whom carried the coffin into church along with Lisbon Lions right-back Craig.

The archbishop said McNeill had been a "captain of a team of legends".

"As a 16-year-old boy, I watched with overflowing joy as Billy and his Lions lifted the European Cup," he recalled. "Never for a moment did I imagine that I would be conducting his funeral mass.

"Everyone remembers Billy holding up the European Cup in Lisbon. What a sight that was. His already imperious presence and stature was magnified by the achievement, by the accolade and by the context."