Celtic assistant manager John Kennedy has touched on the influence Billy McNeill had on cup final day.
The greatest ever Celtic captain passed away on April 22nd, a month before the Scottish Cup final against Hearts. Stevie Chalmers’ death also rocked the club one week later. It was a devastating couple of weeks for the Hoops, as we mourned two of the biggest ever figures to have represented the club.
And it set up for the most emotional of occasions on May 25th. Incredibly, the date was 52 years to the day since Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 – McNeill and Chalmers’ most iconic memory with the club.
And it turns out that the captain that day had a big role to play against Hearts too. Speaking in the Celtic View (Volume 54, Issue 45, Page 66), Kennedy touched on a pre-match tape the team viewed.
“We had a motivational video we showed the players before the game, and Billy McNeill was talking about the fairy tale aspects to the Celtic story over the years. And it wasn’t just about winning the treble, it was about the club, the achievements of the club, and everything surrounding it.
“The emotion of the game was there, it was as much about the current modern-day team, and there was something Lisbon Lion-esque about it all – which I think spurred us on in many ways.
“You don’t ever think you could replicate what the Lisbon Lions achieved. But, the next best thing? That’s what this group has done.”
A fittingly emotional day that played out right
Everything about May 25th 2019 was just so fitting. The fact Celtic went 1-0 down and came back to win in 90 minutes in the same way the Lisbon Lions did was eerie.
But it always just felt as though Cesar’s and Chalmers’ spirits were there that day. It was such an iconic day for the club as a whole, and it was even more fitting that the players sat through a motivational pep talk from McNeill.
Celtic did him proud that day, just as McNeill has always done Celtic proud. Kennedy and Neil Lennon certainly provided a masterstroke in the day by providing the players with that little bit extra encouragement.
It wasn’t a vintage performance against Hearts by any means, but it was a gritty one full of character. On any other date, it wouldn’t have surprised you had Celtic managed to lose that contest. But there was something iconic and fitting about the way the match was set up.
Cesar, in particular, will be looking down now and encouraging the Hoops to nine-in-a-row next season. But he can do so knowing he played a big part in securing the treble treble for his beloved Celtic.