2. Billy McNeil
An undoubted Celtic great, Billy McNeill, was the captain of the Lisbon Lions,the team that won the European Cup in 1967. He was signed by Celtic from a nearby junior team, Blantyre Victoria, in 1957 as a defender.
As captain, he won 9 Scottish League Championships, 7 Scottish Cups, and 6 Scottish League Cups, as well as the European Cup final. He had the honour of being the first British player to lift the European Cup. He was voted the greatest ever captain of Celtic by the club’s fans in 2002.
Billy McNeill retired as a player in 1975 after over 800 appearances for Celtic. During his career, he won 29 caps for Scotland. The following quote from Jock Stein sums up Billy McNeill’s importance to the Celtic sides of the era perfectly:
“What makes a great player? He’s the one who brings out the best in others. When I am saying that I’m talking about Billy McNeill.”
1. Jock Stein
Jock Stein was appointed as Celtic’s manager in March 1965, becoming the club’s first Protestant manager. Stein’s first challenge was to force the hand of the board to ensure he was to be the sole man in charge and not the chairman Bob Kelly. The previous manager Jimmy McGrory had acquiesced too easily to the board and let control slip through his fingers, as a result, the team was a shambles and a poor reflection of its glorious past.
For the 1965–66 season, Stein made one major signing, Joe McBride from Motherwell. McBride rewarded Stein with 43 goals that season. Celtic lost the first Old Firm derby that season but gained revenge by winning the League Cup final against Rangers.
From there Celtic would begin their reign of domestic dominance, they were to monopolise the league cup for the next 5 years and the league was to be theirs for an incredible nine seasons in a row.
His biggest achievement was winning the 1967 European Cup. The opponent in the final was Italian giant Inter Milan, a previous winner of the competition. Despite initially falling behind to an Italian penalty, Celtic team triumphed 2–1, winning much admiration for the positive attacking quality of their football. In winning club football’s most prestigious trophy, Stein became the first man not only to guide a Scottish club to champions of Europe but also the first to achieve this honour with a British club. He also became the first manager in history to win all competitions entered. The feat was done with a team all born within 30 miles of Glasgow. In a conversation with Bill Shankly shortly afterwards, Shankly famously told him “John, you’re immortal now”.