Aberdeen legend Willie Miller has given his comments on the heroic Billy McNeill.
McNeill, nicknamed Cesar by the Celtic supporters, passed away in the early hours of this morning. Since then, a plethora of tributes from around the footballing world has come flooding in.
The likes of Pep Guardiola and Sir Alex Ferguson have touched on the great man. But Miller has today spoken about an interesting period of McNeill’s career.
Cesar’s first big role in management came at Pittodrie after his legendary playing career came to an end. After a two-month stint at Clyde, he swiftly moved up north. Miller was a player at Aberdeen during that stage, and speaking to the BBC (18:51), he spoke about when McNeill first arrived.
“He came to Aberdeen before he went to Celtic, but we knew he was there just to learn the trade and serve his apprenticeship.
“We didn’t know how long he was going to be there and it turned out to be only a season, but that season we didn’t win any silverware, but we were very close to doing that – second in the league and we were beaten by Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.
“But it was his presence that affects you. There are not too many people who walk through the door and you are immediately impressed with – before he opens his mouth and speaks. He had that.”
A prolonged career in football management
McNeill has always been idolised for his playing days. So much so that it’s easy to forget he also had a 14-year career in football management!
He led Aberdeen to runners-up spots in both the league and Scottish Cup during his one year at Pittodrie. It was their best performance domestically since 1972 – which was five years before he joined the club.
McNeill then swiftly moved on to Parkhead to replace the late great Jock Stein, and subsequently won three league titles, one Scottish Cup, and one League Cup during his five-year reign. That was despite coming up against the golden age of Aberdeen and Dundee United.
Spells with Manchester City and Aston Villa were sandwiched in between his two spells at Parkhead. On his return, McNeill won the league and cup double in Celtic’s centenary year. From there, financial instability coincided with some poor campaigns, and McNeill subsequently left the club in 1991.
During his two spells at Parkhead as a manager, Cesar took eight medals from his tenure. Pat Bonner put it right when he said that “legend” isn’t a big enough word for him.
His aura as a Celtic man won’t ever be matched.