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  • Athletic Club honour Billy McNeill for his devotion to Celtic

    Athletic Club honour Billy McNeill for his devotion to Celtic

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 18 Apr, 2019 11:31

  • A SPECIAL presentation took place at Celtic Park today, as a delegation from Athletic Club de Bilbao honoured Celtic’s greatest ever captain, Billy McNeill.

    Jose Angel Iribar, Athletic’s legendary goalkeeper, who is their record appearance holder, and board member, Aitor Bernardo, presented the prestigious One Club Man Award in honour of Billy’s faithful service to Celtic throughout his career.

    And receiving the Award on behalf of Billy were Celtic chairman, Ian Bankier, and Lisbon Lions, Jim Craig, John Clark and Bertie Auld.

    Athletic Club’s One Club Man Award was set up four years ago with the aim of honouring players whose career with one team represents the values of commitment, loyalty, responsibility, sportsmanship and respect, which embody their identity as a club.

    In choosing to honour Billy McNeill, the Basque club recognise the enormous contribution the man known as Cesar has made to Celtic Football Club.

    Athletic Club board member, Aitor Bernardo explained: “Billy really represents the values of the Athletic Club. We share a lot of things together regarding people who have played for the same club for their full career.

    “Jose Angel Iribar, who is here to present this award, is one example – he is our Lion – and that’s why we decided to recognise Billy’s career, not only as a football player, as a great captain but also as a person.

    “As he faces these difficult times, he knows for sure that he is not walking alone, and so we wanted to come here to give him a little bit of strength.

    “There are a lot of similarities between Athletic and Celtic. Back in 1967, you did something that, probably at the time, no-one thought could be done. You were able to succeed in the European Cup with players from the local area, and this is the base of our philosophy.

    “We play with local players, we are very proud of having this philosophy and of playing in the Spanish league and in Europe with local players. So we have a commitment to what we call the ‘Colours Philosophy’ – this feeling of belonging, that you have demonstrated that throughout your full career or full history, and both clubs serve the same feeling of belonging.”

    Billy McNeill’s son, Martyn, said: “On behalf of my father and the family, we’re honoured to receive this award. When you see the past recipients – Matthew Le Tissier, Paolo Maldini, Sepp Maier and Carles Puyol – for my father to be included in that group of players is tremendous.

    “My father has always been associated with Celtic, and being in Scotland you’re aware of that. But when you have a club like Athletic Bilbao giving this award, it means so much to us to get recognition from further afield. It’s lovely to see my father’s dedication and devotion to Celtic be acknowledged in this way.”

    Celtic chairman Ian Bankier said: “It’s a very thoughtful award because it’s not just about Billy’s playing career, it’s not just about his management career, it’s about his whole life and his contribution, as one man, to Celtic Football Club.

    “Billy means everything to the club, and that’s no disrespect to the other great Lions who performed on that day. Billy was remarkable, as a player, as a manager and as a man.”

    Lisbon Lion, Jim Craig said: “First of all, it’s an amazing gesture by Athletic Club de Bilbao and they deserve to be congratulated for thinking of the idea in the first place. Billy had a remarkable career here at Celtic Park, as a player and manager, and captain as well, which not everybody gets the chance to do. So to get involved in something like this has been absolutely great."

    And fellow Lion, Bertie Auld, added: “Billy was outstanding as a young player when he first came into the team, and he became a great captain. He had tremendous respect from everyone, both on and off the field.”


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