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Athletic Club to honour Billy McNeill with prestigious Award

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CELTIC’S greatest ever captain, Billy McNeill, is to be given a prestigious award by Athletic Club de Bilbao in recognition of his faithful service to Celtic throughout his entire playing career.

Athletic Club’s One Club Man Award was set up four years ago with the aim of honouring players whose career with one team represents the values of commitment, loyalty, responsibility, sportsmanship and respect, which embody their identity as a club.

In choosing to honour Billy McNeill, the Basque club recognise the enormous contribution the man known as Cesar has made to Celtic Football Club.

During his playing career, which began in 1957 and ended in 1975, Billy played 790 competitive games for Celtic, more than any other player in the club’s history, and scored 34 goals. He captained the Hoops to nine league titles in a row, seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups, while he also lifted the European Cup on May 25, 1967, when Celtic beat Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon’s Estadio Nacional to become the Kings of Europe.

He would later return to Celtic for two successful spells as manager, while in 2009 he became Celtic’s first Club Ambassador.

A special presentation of the One Club Man trophy is to be made in Glasgow by an Athletic Club delegation – Jose Angel Iribar, Athletic’s legendary goalkeeper, who is their record appearance holder, and board member, Aitor Bernardo.

Previous recipients of the One Club Man Award have been Carles Puyol, Sepp Maier, Paolo Maldini and Matthew Le Tissier.

Celtic Chairman Ian Bankier said: “This Award is a fantastic recognition for Billy and recognises the phenomenal contribution he made to Celtic over so many years. A towering figure in the history of our great Club, Billy’s achievements at Celtic form a legacy which we will always be so thankful for.

“Billy has always represented Celtic at all times in the best of ways with true integrity and professionalism and is someone who has always been the finest Ambassador for the Club.

“I am delighted that his unwavering commitment to Celtic has been recognised by Athletic Club de Bilbao in this manner and we congratulate Billy, Liz and all the family on this great achievement.”

Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell commented: “Billy is a hugely deserving recipient of this highly prestigious award. I know that Billy’s family is tremendously proud of this accolade, and on behalf of everyone at Celtic I would like to send our sincere congratulations to Billy and the entire McNeill family.

“I would also like to thank Athletic Club de Bilbao for honouring Billy in this way, it's a tremendous gesture which is greatly appreciated.

“I have had the genuine honour and privilege of knowing Billy for so many years now and he is someone who always set the highest of examples with his values of family, respect and humility. He is rightly revered as a true Celtic great and he will always be one of our favourite sons – a special player and a very special man.

“He has been voted our greatest ever captain and it is fantastic that Billy’s selfless contribution to his One Club has been recognised in this way. 

“Billy will always be one of European football’s major figures. He has given such a huge part of his life to Celtic and for that, we will forever be grateful and we forever hold him in such high esteem.”

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