Billy McNeill: legendary Celtic skipper's Bellshill statue would depict iconic walk up Lisbon steps

Billy McNeill (right) skippered the Celtic team managed by Jock Stein (also pictured) to 1967 European Cup
Billy McNeill (right) skippered the Celtic team managed by Jock Stein (also pictured) to 1967 European Cup

The statue of Celtic legend Billy McNeill planned for his home town would feature an iconic image of the ex-skipper walking up the Lisbon steps.

Fundraisers hope that Bellshill’s favourite footballing son – who died of dementia aged 79 in April – will be immortalised through a bronze statue illustrating McNeill carrying the Celtic pennant at the Estadio Nacional on May 25, 1967, after the Hoops had won the European Cup with a thrilling 2-1 final success over Italian cracks Inter Milan.

Eddie Lynas, chairperson of the Billy McNeill Commemoration Committee, told the Times and Speaker: “The design of this statue has the blessing of Billy’s family.

“I think this is an iconic image of Billy, tall and proud with the Celtic pennant in his hands.

“We want a fitting legacy which can be there for years to come for people to see in Bellshill.”

Sculptor John McKenna – whose works include the existing McNeill statue outside Celtic Park as well as similar tributes to Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Lennox in their home towns – has been commisioned to do the McNeill statue in Bellshill town centre.

It is hoped that the latest McNeill structure – which will be built if its backers can raise a minimum of £75,000 – will be unveiled by May 2021.

Eddie is delighted that £36,000 has been raised for it already, almost halfway towards the minimum amount required.

In addition, it is planned that any funds raised over and above £75,000 will be used to establish a foundation supporting dementia sufferers.

“I had the pleasure of talking to Billy many times when he was in good health,” Eddie said. “He was a very humble man.”