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  • Lisbon Lion Jim Craig: I will miss spending time with my friend

    Lisbon Lion Jim Craig: I will miss spending time with my friend

    By: Paul Cuddihy on 23 Apr, 2019 12:45

  • LISBON Lion Jim Craig has paid tribute to Billy McNeill, his friend of over 50 years. The two men, along with their team-mates, achieved extraordinary success in their playing careers with Celtic, but their friendship extended way beyond that time.

    Speaking today, Jim Craig said: “It is very sad news. Billy was such a nice guy, easy to get on with and that’s all you can ask from someone. He never made any demands on you, he was just happy in your company and that’s what I’ll miss the most.

    “I first met him in unusual circumstances. I was the captain of the Scottish schoolboys team in 1961 for a game against England, which was the only international match we played at that time at Under-18 level. The match was held at Celtic Park, and before the game Billy, who had played in the same fixture just three years earlier, was brought into the dressing-room.

    “By that time he was playing for Celtic and he was an example of how we could improve and how we could get on and the level we could reach if we worked hard, so that was my first meeting with him. Then, five years later, I was a team-mate of his.

    “Billy was always a natural leader. He didn’t have to say anything, he just looked the part and he was very helpful to me when I came into the team and I’m sure he was the same to the others as well.

    "He might have a quiet word sometimes during a game, maybe at a corner or a free-kick, but he was never a shouter, he never needed to roll up his sleeves.

    “It was a natural thing he had, an aspect of his character where, if he said something on or off the park, you could accept it. And he had worked with Jock Stein before when Jock was there at Celtic in the earlier days with the reserves. So there was a rapport between those two that I think none of the rest of us had, which was a great help as well.

    “He had a very good managerial career as well and was very successful in his two spells at the club, and again, that’s where the family came into play because they were always very supportive of him wherever he managed. They were all behind him and they’ve always been a tower of strength for him.”

    And Jim and his wife, Elisabeth, also paid a special tribute to Billy’s family, in particular, his wife Liz.

    Elisabeth Craig said: “Liz is an amazing lady, and she has just been a tower of strength. We went to Australia and Vegas with Billy and Liz, and Billy was good company, very caring and he always had time for people. He was always very affable, sociable and very kind.

    “In recent years Billy came through a very difficult few years. It has been difficult for the family, particularly Liz, but they’ve all rallied round to cope with it.”

    And Jim Craig added: “Sometimes teams split up after they’ve stopped playing, but we always got on very well as a group, without necessarily being in each other’s houses all the time. We were all very friendly and continued that right through our lives. He’ll be sadly missed by us all.”

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