Date of Celtic great Billy McNeill’s bronze statue unveiling in his home town of Bellshill confirmed

Thousands expected at Celtic icon Billy McNeill statue unveiling in hometown of Bellshill

<p>Celtic's fans wave a flag picturing former captain Billy McNeill </p>

Celtic's fans wave a flag picturing former captain Billy McNeill

Thousands of spectators are expected to descend on Bellshill Cross later this month to see the unveiling of a bronze statue depicting legendary ex-Celtic skipper and Bellshill native Billy McNeill, the 1967 European Cup-winning captain.

Fellow ex-Hoops captain Tom Boyd will compere a ceremony showcasing the statue – built by sculptor John McKenna – which shows McNeill leading the team out in Lisbon before the 2-1 final win over Inter Milan 55 years ago.

The unfurling will be done by the late centre back’s wife Liz and one of their daughters (Paula or Susan) from 1.30pm on Saturday, November 26, with the public welcome to attend an event. Specially invited guests include former Celtic stars Pat Bonner, Frank MacAvennie, John Clark, Mark Reid, Graeme Sinclair and Tom Callaghan and Rangers great John Greig.

"We are delighted to get to this stage,” Billy McNeill Commemoration Committee chairman Eddie Lynas told the Times and Speaker. “It’s a great day for Bellshill.

"Billy was the first northern European to get his hands on the European Cup so the committee felt this needed to be recognised via building a statue in his home town.

"This is a community event. We are expecting a few thousand people to attend from all over Scotland.”

The unveiling – delayed by over two years as a result of coronavirus – comes after the Statue for Cesar campaign for the project raised over £80,000 since 2019 after donations from North Lanarkshire Council, prominent local businesspeople and as far away as Australia and Japan.

Billy McNeill, pictured with Celtic manager Jock Stein after winning the 1974 Scottish Cup, died aged 79 in April 2019 after suffering from dementia

Lynas revealed that, with the help of Celtic FC, an invite to the McNeill tribute had been sent to Inter Milan legend Sandro Mazzola, who scored an early penalty in the 1967 final before the Glasgow side won it with goals by Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers.

Mazzola, 80, had replied to say he was very grateful for this gesture but he sadly couldn’t fly over to Scotland to attend due to health reasons.

To continue McNeill’s name in this area, committee members have established the Billy McNeill Commemoration Charity – of which Liz McNeill is the patron - with the aim of providing grant support to local youngsters who want to excel in sport but couldn’t otherwise afford it.