Celtic reveal Billy McNeill tribute statue

Billy McNeill stands alongside his statue
Billy McNeill has been honoured with a statue at Celtic Park

Celtic unveiled a statue paying tribute to lauded former captain and manager Billy McNeill on Saturday.

McNeill skippered the club to the European Cup in 1967 in a career spanning a record 790 appearances, and yielding 31 major honours.

"To now think that I will be honoured alongside such great men as Brother Walfrid and Jock Stein really does fill me with great pride," said McNeill.

"To be recognised in this way, by the club I love, is truly humbling."

Celtic fans gather to pay tribute to Billy McNeill
Fans gathered to pay tribute to McNeill

The statue is made in bronze and sits on a granite base. The plinth is engraved on all four sides with McNeill's achievements as a player and manager, the names of the players who brought the European Cup to Celtic and a quote from former manager Jock Stein.

As a player McNeill won nine league championships, seven Scottish Cups, six League Cups as well as his continental triumph. As a manager, he won four league titles, three Scottish Cups and a solitary League Cup.

"I have had the honour and privilege of knowing Billy for many years now, and while there is sometimes caution offered in wanting to meet your heroes, in Billy's case he is everything you would ever expect from Celtic's greatest ever captain, and so much more," Celtic's chief executive, Peter Lawwell, told the clubexternal-link website.

Ronny Deila and Celtic players
Celtic manager Ronny Deila and his players were in attendance

"Billy's statue will stand at the beginning of The Celtic Way, proud and imposing - just as Billy was as a player - to welcome visitors to our stadium, and I am delighted to be part of this very special occasion today.

"I know that Billy, Liz and their family feel honoured by the decision to erect this statue, but as every Celtic supporter would testify, the honour has been ours in enjoying Billy's lifetime of devoted service to our club."

McNeill's former teammate, and another of the Lisbon Lions who claimed the European Cup in 1967, Bertie Auld addressed the large gathering of supporters, as well as the present playing contingent.

Billy McNeill is applauded by Celtic's players and management
McNeill was applauded by the Celtic players and management

"Billy was a magnificent captain," he said. "More than that, he was a magnificent man. He wasn't just a centre back, he was a goal-scorer as well.

"When I was at Birmingham there were clubs every week wanting to sign him but he was Celtic through and through. He, and every single one of us did, loved speaking about the history of Celtic. Look at Billy when he was manager, he still had that passion."

Present manager Ronny Deila and his playing contingent were also in attendance as the statue was undraped.

"It was very special; it was almost too much for me," Deila told BBC Scotland. "So I'm very happy to have been there, it's a great thing for a great man and a legend in the club.

"You talk about his performances but you also talk about what he is as a man and his values and that's so important.

"It shows how much this club means for the people and what's been achieved here before. We are very lucky to be here."