Billy McNeill passing a reminder of old respect between Rangers & Celtic
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Billy McNeill passing a reminder of old respect between Rangers & Celtic

The passing of Celtic legend Billy McNeill has sent a bit of a shockwave through Scottish football.
And not because of surprise, but rather through realisation. His impact and influence across Scottish, British and European football speaks for itself. He was a ginormous figure at Celtic and in Scottish football.
He had and continues to have, the respect of the game in Scotland and beyond. That includes from Ibrox. Even some Rangers fans paid their respects to McNeill online.


Widely considered Celtic’s greatest ever captain, his passing is a timely reminder of something which has been slowly rubbed away in recent years. That is – the hands-length respect that once existed between Rangers and Celtic. Between the clubs, the players and the fans.
John Greig, voted the Greatest Ever Ranger, paid tribute to McNeill and laid a wreath at his statue following his passing. The two were friends, and over the decades, the duo adopted leadership roles for their respective clubs.
It’s wasn’t just those two either. Willie Henderson and Jimmy Johnstone – two lethal jokers in their day – were often known to get up to no good together.
There’s plenty of archive footage of Ally McCoist and Tommy Burns sharing laughs or telling stories about them.
I was even once told a story about a card school some Old Firm players used to take part in with each other after games.

Plenty of respect between former Rangers & Celtic players

You can also strip all of this back to our private lives, where Rangers and Celtic split friendships, relationships and families. Such is the cultural importance of both football clubs to their respective supporters, every and any fan of either will soon cross paths with an opposite number.
Just as the players do on the pitch.
But now, there is a bubbling contempt between the two clubs and the two club’s players. A real dissatisfaction which really stems from Rangers revival on the Celtic side and Celtic’s dominance on the Rangers one.

McNeill and Greig remained old friends throughout their lives. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But the passing of Billy McNeill offers supporters of both clubs the chance to peek into a different time in Scottish football.
One where both sides made an impact on Europe. One where both sides had some truly world-class players.
And one where both sides had a much deeper respect for one another. Both on and off the pitch.