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PersonalFullname: William King Lyon
aka: Willie Lyon, "Celtic's Bayard"
Born: 7 Mar 1912
Died: 5 Dec 1962
Signed: 20 April 1935
Left: 25 May 1940 (Scots Grays); 1944 (retired)
Debut: Aberdeen 1-3 Celtic, League, 10 Aug 1935
BiogThe great Willie Lyon is widely regarded as one of the finest captains in the rich history of Celtic.
Born in Birkenhead but raised in Scotland, Lyon signed for Celtic in April 1935 from Queen’s Park after also enjoying a spell at Kirkintilloch Rob Roy.
He made his debut on August 10th that year as the Celts went down 3-1 at Aberdeen in a league tie. A strong and tough tackling centre-half Lyon was an uncompromising defender who was commanding in the air and more than comfortable with the ball at his feet.
His tall, strong frame gave him a presence which reassured team-mates and intimidated opponents but he also had the brains to match the brawn and this intelligent player possessed a rare coolness under pressure. He was a hard worker and it paid off as Jimmy McGrory reflected:
"He wasn't so good in the air when he came to Parkhead but he practised every day and became one of the great centre-halves in the game."
Willie Lyon was a natural for the role of captain and it was a duty in which he excelled, leading by example with whole-hearted performances which exposed a total unwillingness to accept defeat.
As skipper he took the club to league championship successes in 1936 and 1938 and a Scottish Cup triumph in 1937. He was also captain of the famous 1938 team which lifted the Empire Exhibition Trophy (receiving the trophy on the pitch at Ibrox). However what promised to be a long and trophy-laden Hoops career was to come to an abrupt end due to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Although Willie was to play a handful of games for the Bhoys in the regional wartime league and cup competitions his football career was all but over and – like many of his contemporaries - at a time when he should have been at the peak of his career Willie swapped the football field for the battlefield.
As a soldier in the Scots Guards Willie served with distinction in North Africa and Sicily but then suffered a serious leg wound during fighting in Normandy in 1944. It was a wound which was to prematurely end his football career at the age of 32.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his time in North Africa working with an anti-tank unit of the 51HD in Tunisia. It says everything about the qualities of Willie Lyon that he joined the army as a Private and left as a Major.
An inspirational and much loved figure Willie Lyon died in Manchester on December 5th 1962 at the age of just 50. His death was greeted with great sadness on the terraces of Celtic Park where flags flew at half-mast and the players wore black armbands for their game against Hearts a few days later.
Willie Maley called Willie Lyon "Celtic's Bayard" (Le chevlier sans peur et sans reproche ("The knight without fear and beyond reproach")).
His life and Celtic career – 187 games and 17 goals - were all too short lived but Willie Lyon will long be remembered as a true Celtic hero.
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Honours with CelticScottish League Championship
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