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  • Lisbon Lion John Clark: Billy was such a big part of my life

    Lisbon Lion John Clark: Billy was such a big part of my life

    By: Tony Connelly on 23 Apr, 2019 13:31

  • JOHN Clark described Billy McNeill as an ‘icon of football’ and a ‘massive personality’ as he paid tribute to his friend and former Lisbon Lions team-mate who sadly passed away late last night (Monday, April 22).

    Celtic legend, Billy McNeill, passed away at the age of 79 after battling dementia for many years. He leaves behind a legacy unlike any other, and tributes for the man fondly known as Cesar have begun pouring in from throughout the footballing world.

    In paying tribute to Billy, John Clark said he was deeply saddened at losing a dear friend and described his former team-mate as a giant of the game.

    “My thoughts are with Liz, his children and his grandchildren,” said Clark. “It’s obviously very sad and I hope they are okay. Jim Craig called me this morning to tell me the news and, even though I knew he wasn’t well, it still stuns you when you find out.

    “I’ve known Billy for most of my life. We played together and spent most of our lives working together, about 60-odd years in total. I can’t imagine a time in my life then without him.

    “There were no big egos in that team we were part of and Billy summed that up. He was down to earth and everyone in the team was as well. Billy was well-liked, and everyone who met him liked him because of the kind of person he was.

    “There’s nothing much more you could say to sum him up other than he was an icon in football. He was well-respected by everyone and he respected other people as well. He’ll be a big miss. That’s part of my life away now. He was a massive personality. He was big in stature and big in personality and we’ll all miss him very much.”

    John Clark arrived at Paradise in 1958, one year after Billy signed for Celtic, and the pair played in the Hoops together for 13 years. They achieved unprecedented success along the way and became immortalised as the Lisbon Lions after crowning achievement of winning the European Cup in 1967.

    The two men first met as teenagers and went on to form a bond that would that would last a lifetime but their work together did not cease once they retired from playing. They partnered up in management and brought more success to Celtic.

    “I played with him and managed with him at Aberdeen and Celtic,” said John Clark. “I always knew Billy would be a good manager because he was determined enough to be successful and he was successful.

    “He never let things get to him in a way some managers would have and that was down to the character he was. He could handle the pressure well and he did as a player and a manager.”

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