The Clumpany has not been in a position to try your patience with regular blogs in recent times.
And I wasn’t going to say anything in blog form about the unveiling of the Billy McNeill statue today, because far more articulate folk than me can better-express the significance of the occasion.
But then I saw the range and depth-of-feeling of the comments from all sorts of folk, and I concluded that I should say something. Because today’s unveiling really means something to the likes of me: an ordinary punter who loves Celtic and the game in which they play.
And if nothing else, the example of the Lions – a bunch of local lads who came together and were sparked to greatness (by a genius of a manager) – shows that even apparently-humble folk can be worthy of note.
So here is my little observation…
Doing justice to a man such as Billy McNeill (with all his achievements as a player, and his stature as a leader of men and ambassador for his club and sport) was never going to be easy. But Celtic Football Club pulled it off today in no uncertain terms. With the support of the surviving Lions, the current players, and (of course) the fans.
The image of Billy McNeill lifting the Big Cup is an iconic one for Celtic FC and its fans, but also for Scottish and British football.
And ultimately, it is also an iconic image for European and world football. It resonates down the years. And it always will.
Because it showed that “pure, beautiful, inventive football” could actually be a means of winning the biggest prize in club football. The ruthlessly conservative approach epitomised by Inter didn’t have to be the only show in town.
In 1967, Celtic FC opened doors. In fact they changed the game. Forever.
After Celtic fans saw their side lift the European Cup, supporters of northern European sides such as Manchester Utd, Feyenoord, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Nottingam Forest, Aston Villa and Hamburg etc had the same remarkable experience.
But Celtic FC was there first. It used its hands to grab European football by the scruff of the neck, and used its feet to kick open a door for many others. In 1967 it played the old Latin football off the park with an unrelenting and exciting approach that produced still-eye watering statistics for a European Cup final!
And the rest is history.
Celtic’s achievement in winning the European Cup was – and remains – truly extraordinary. As such, we are truly lucky to walk in Billy McNeill’s shadow.
The unveiling of his well-deserved statue today means that we can continue to walk in his shadow for ever more. And if that isn’t something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.
What a footballer! What a leader! What a man!