Billy McNeill: Celtic legend a 'true icon & leader' - Brendan Rodgers

Billy McNeill pictured in 2014 at the Estadio Nacional in Portugal, where Celtic's 'Lisbon Lions' won the European Cup in 1967
McNeill returned in 2014 to the Estadio Nacional where Celtic's 'Lisbon Lions' won the 1967 European Cup

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers says Billy McNeill is "a true icon and leader" who has influenced the Glasgow club's standing in the modern game.

McNeill's family revealed at the weekend that the former captain and manager is suffering from dementia.

"He is one of the great figures who has inspired Celtic to what it is today," Rodgers said.

"Billy and his family retain the huge support of the Celtic family, which is the fans and everyone involved here."

Rodgers revealed that he had met the 76-year-old at the 1-0 win over Aberdeen at Celtic Park on 1 February.

"I met Billy the last time at the Aberdeen game and he was in good spirits," he said.

"The twinkle was still in his eye, but like his wife said, he finds it hard to communicate at the moment.

"Everyone here and the support will always be here for them and to make their life as easy for them as we can."

Rodgers said that McNeill's leadership of the Lisbon Lions in 1967 was "inspirational" and played a part in the success that other British clubs went on to enjoy in the competition.

He added that his duty as the current Celtic manager was to meet the standards set by the likes of McNeill, Danny McGrain and John Clark in the past.

Brendan Rodgers salutes Celtic fans after Saturday's 2-0 win over Hamilton
Rodgers has led Celtic to 21 straight Premiership wins, and 32 domestic games unbeaten

"If you look at him as the player, he inspired not just people around Celtic Football Club but many a player around Britain, being the first captain of a British team to pick up the European Cup," Rodgers said.

"You only truly get inspired seeing someone you know, or are close to, actually do it. From that moment, Liverpool won the European Cup five times and other teams and managers won it, so a really truly inspirational figure.

"At Celtic, he was a real leader of men - and proper men. My time remembering him was as a manager and the great teams he managed and the great players.

"One of the truly iconic players and people of this club who will always be remembered fondly. I'm sure he'll be around to see many more games."

Rodgers said that McNeill - who managed Celtic from 1978 to 1983 and again from 1987 to 1991 - and his former European Cup-winning team-mates were an inspiration when he joined the club last summer.

"When I first came in here, I said my duty as the manager was to fill the stand," he added.

"One of the stands was named after the Lisbon Lions and he was the leader of that, so our respect as players and coaching staff was to inspire this team to entertain in order to get the stands back full again as a mark of respect to those great figures of our past.

"The Celtic way has always been about entertainment, fighting for the shirt, defending the culture of your club, so every time you pull on your Celtic shirt, you have to play with confidence, play with aggression, tenacity, be optimistic that you can win every game and you've got to have enthusiasm before you even think about tactics."

Meanwhile, ahead of Wednesday's trip to face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Premiership, Rodgers revealed Celtic are awaiting scan results to ascertain the extent of the injury winger James Forrest suffered in the 2-0 win against Hamilton Academical at the weekend.

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