Interim Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, has said today that the club should retire the number five jersey worn famously by club legend Billy McNeill, who sadly died this week.
“Cesar” as he was known, played over 800 games in total for the club between 1957 and 1975. He captained the club to many trophies, none more famous than the 1967 European Cup.
His statue stands on the Celtic Way as a reminder of the amazing achievement by the Lisbon Lions on that famous day. Since the news of his passing broke on Tuesday, there have many fitting tributes made by his former colleagues, and opponents – Sir Alex Ferguson, John Greig, Bertie Auld, Charlie Nicholas, Inter Milan – the list is endless.
Lennon’s idea of retiring the shirt is something which will be warmly endorsed by the club’s fans. Many great centre-halves have worn that number since Billy, but there will be no one who comes close to being regarded as lovingly by the supporters at Celtic Park.
As reported by STV News, Lennon said:
He was the one, he was Celtic. We have lost him and it is a huge loss to the club.
He was a leader of a great team and a leader of great men. I can’t put into words how big a loss he is to this club.
Should this go ahead, the current first-team player Jozo Simunovic would have to forfeit the shirt and choose another one in the squad.
Given the depth of feeling and emotion around Billy’s contribution to the club, Simunovic would surely have any problem with this small sacrifice.