Thousands line the streets of Glasgow to pay their final respects to Celtic legend Billy McNeill

Auslan Cramb
The funeral cortege in Celtic Way - Getty Images Europe

Thousands of fans and an all star cast from Scottish football, past and present, have paid an emotional farewell to Billy McNeill, who was remembered both as a “Celtic legend” and “simply a decent human being”.

Supporters threw flowers and green and white scarves towards the hearse and sang songs about the club’s greatest captain, and the Lisbon Lions, as his coffin was driven down the Celtic Way on Friday.

A funeral mass was held at St Aloysius' Church in Glasgow, before the cortege made its way to Celtic Park.

McNeill, who was suffering from dementia, died last month, aged 79. As a player and manager he won 31 trophies with Celtic, and became the first British player to lift the European Cup in that famous win over Inter Milan in Lisbon in 1967.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia began his homily by offering “heartfelt sympathies” to McNeill’s wife of 56 years, Liz, and their children Susan, Carol, Libby, Paula and Martyn.

He told the congregation the renowned defender endured his years of ill health with “dignity and courage” and described him as the “captain of a team of legends”.

The churchman recalled his own “overflowing joy” as a 16-year-old boy when he watched him lift the European Cup.

The hearse passing Billy McNeill's statue outside Celtic Park Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Sir Alex Ferguson was among the mourners, along with the former Celtic managers Brendan Rodgers, Martin O'Neill, Gordon Strachan and Kenny Dalglish.

The Lisbon Lions Bobby Lennox, John Clark, Jim Craig and Bertie Auld were also present, along with the Celtic first team squad. Also there was McNeill’s old rival, and friend, the former Rangers captain John Greig.

The player’s son, Martyn, described his parents as the "original Posh and Becks”, because of his mother's role as a dancer on television.

Celtic fans held up a banner last month in tribute to McNeill Credit: Ian Rutherford/PA

The broadcaster Archie MacPherson also spoke at the church and recalled that McNeill was never demonised during Old Firm games.

He added: “Somehow he seemed to be able to rise above the unfortunate quasi-religious, hate-fest that too often it turned into. Why? Because of his appearance, his stature, because of the way he played - athletic, hard but fair. He was simply a decent human being."