Sign in or
|O | Player Pics | A-Z of Players|
PersonalFullname: William O'Neill
aka: Willie O'Neill
Born: 30 December 1940
Died: 28 April 2011
Signed: October 1959
Left: May 1969
First game: Dunfermline Athletic 0-2 Hampden Scottish Cup final replay 26 April 1961
Last game: Dundee away 2-1 league 30 April 1969
BiogWillie O'Neill joined Celtic from St Anthony's in October 1959 and went on to spent the best part of the next decade at Parkhead.
Remarkably O'Neill made his Hoops first team debut in the Scottish Cup final replay of 1961 as the Celts lost 2-0 to Dunfermline at Hampden, at left back, due to Jim Kennedy being hospitalised with appendicitis.
The full back was a precision passer and a cool head but for most of his Celtic career he had to be content with infrequent first team call ups as he never seemed able to quite hold down a starting place on a permanent basis. To be fair he had a lot of competition with Dunky McKay, Tommy Gemmell, Ian Young and Jim Craig and Willie all fighting for a place at full back.
However at the start of the now legendary 1966-67 season Jock Stein gave O'Neill his chance and he turned in some fine performances most notably against Rangers in the League Cup final of October 1966. Before the game started Rangers fans released balloons and one of them was headed for the goal at the Celtic end. A young Celtic fan ran on the field and booted the balloon from the goal to a huge roar from the Celtic fans behind the Kings Park end goal. Incredibly, with Celtic leading 1-0 and under severe pressure with only minutes remaining, Alec Smith prodded the ball past Ronnie Simpson towards the Celtic goal where the balloon had headed earlier but Willie O'Neill saved the day by clearing in exactly the same way the young Celtic fan had done earlier!
Willie played in the first four European ties of the 1966/67 season but despite some fine performances he was dropped after the 3-2 Hogmanay defeat to Dundee United. Jim Craig took his place and never looked back although Stein called Willie back for Di Stefano's testimonial in the Bernabeau stadium in which he excelled in Celtic's historic 1-0 victory.
Willie remained an important part of the first team squad and played, unusually at inside left, in Buenos Aires in Celtic's ill fated tie against Racing Club of Argentina in the 1967 World Club Championship. Days earlier he had come on as a substitute for Bertie Auld in the League Cup final at Hampden in which Celtic emerged victorious by 5-3.
Willie started the 1968/69 as Celtic's first choice left back to the exclusion of Jim Craig with Tommy Gemmell moving to right back. He had fine games against Rangers in the League cup victories at Ibrox and Parkhead of August 1968 but lost his place after the 2-0 European Cup defeat against St.Ettiene on September 1968. He played his last game against Dundee at Dens Park in a 2-1 win on April 30th 1969 when the title had already been won.
Willie O'Neill was a capable and reliable player who, although not always a regular, played a vital role for Celtic in the glory years of Jock Stein's reign.
A popular and well liked character among fans and team-mates Willie eventually left Celtic in May 1969 to join Carlisle for an estimated £10,000 fee, but an ankle injury forced him to announce his retirement two years later.
Post-playing he returned to Glasgow, and worked in Baird's bar. He was loved by all and was approachable willing to let others see the European Cup medal he very much deserved.
He passed away on April 28th 2011, a much missed Celt.
|APPEARANCES||LEAGUE||SCOTTISH CUP||LEAGUE CUP||EUROPE||TOTAL|
| 1960-61 ||2||1||-||-||3|
| 1961-62 ||2||-||-||-||2|
| 1962-63 ||13||1||-||-||14|
| 1963-64 ||5||-||-||-||5|
| 1964-65 ||4||-||-||-||4|
| 1965-66 ||-||-||-||-||-|
| 1966-67 ||17||-||9||4||30|
| 1967-68 ||6||-||3||-||9|
| 1968-69 ||4||1||6||1||12|
|TOTAL||49 (1)||3||18 (2)||9||79 (3)|
( ) = Substitute Appearance
Honours with Celtic[Indicate any known awards (player of the year, etc)]
Anecdotes1) An absolute gent. I spent a lovely evening in his company in Vegas in 2000 at the NAFCSC convention. The evening went on to breakfast as Bertie Auld had put the deadlock on the room door and Willie couldn't get to bed. He was raging with the wee man.
It was our luck as the stories flowed as did the beer. I vividly remember him looking in the pocket of his shorts for Willie Henderson when he was talking about some of the games he had against rangers. Some great stories from a humble man with a terrific generosity of spirit.
(Leo McGarry of KDS)
2) My favourite memory of Willie is from the 1966 League Cup Final v Rangers, when the ball rolled towards the empty Celtic net following a clash between Ronnie Simpson and Alex Smith. Players of both sides froze, except one man - Willie. He raced the ball to the line and hoofed it clear with centimetres to spare, ensuring that the first trophy of the Glory Season was delivered.
(Flynn of KDS)
3) I once asked Willie about the injury he got at Carlisle after Jock Stein sold him - The injury finished him in the game but Willie said "Truth be told son I got an injury but this (he clasped his heart) was never ever in it - I was brought up with and loved the Celtic and having been fortunate and privileged enough to have played for the club my heart just couldn't be anywhere else - I just wanted back up the road."
Willie was a great servant to and a great Celtic Man - He was equally one of life's genuine Good Guys and a True Gentleman who would go out of his way to help people.
(CaltonBhoy of KDS)
4) My best memory is a game at Ibrox. In those days the Rangers' games were played at TWO million miles an hour. We were two in front with everyone going hammer and tongs. We were awarded a free kick just in front of our penalty area, near the touchline. All the players scampering about with Willie apparently rushing to take it. I was screaming for him to take his time and thinking we are two in front, just calm this down and play out the match. Willie swings his boot and quite deliberately misses the ball. That seemed to have a settling effect on all of our players. He stepped away and then in his own time played a long clearance into Rangers penalty area. He was one of the few in the ground who was in complete control of what he was doing.
I remember very clearly his saving a certain goal in the 1966 League Cup Final, referred to earlier by Flynn. Once again he was calmness personified.
(HughCairns of KDS)
Willie O'Neill, member of legendary European Cup-winning squad, dies aged 70
Published Date: 29 April 2011
CELTIC lost another valued member of the squad who brought the European Cup back to British soil for the first time when it was announced yesterday that Willie O'Neill had passed away. He was 70.Although the full-back's name might not trip so easily off the tongue as that of the likes of Billy McNeill, Jimmy Johnstone and Tommy Gemmell, O'Neill played 32 times in a celebrated season which saw Celtic win all four of the competitions they took part in.
O'Neill played an important role in the 1-0 victory over Rangers in the League Cup final while in the same memorable campaign he also had the distinction of being Celtic's first substitute, coming on for Johnstone in a game against St Mirren in September 1966. By the time the famous victory against Inter Milan in Lisbon came along O'Neill had lost his place in the side again to Jim Craig, who yesterday described his fellow full-back as a fiercely competitive defender.
A keen historian of the club, Craig also noted that O'Neill made his debut for Celtic in a Scottish Cup final replay against Dunfermline in 1961.
"There cannot be many players who made their debut in a Scottish Cup final," pointed out Craig. O'Neill had joined the club in 1959 and remained at Parkhead for ten years, making 86 appearances. O'Neill left Celtic for Carlisle United but an ankle injury forced him to announce his retirement two years later.
"He was a very old fashioned full back in the sense that he did not come forward," recalled Craig. "His best feature was as a sensible defender."
O'Neill took advantage of Craig's absence due to his dentistry studies from a pre-season tour to America in 1966 to establish himself in the team at the start of the most distinguished season in the club's history.
"I had been the man in charge (of the shirt] at the end of the previous season, but then I missed the tour because I was sitting my finals during that summer and it took me until November to get back in again," explained Craig.
"Willie was a really intelligent full back but he was probably a throw-back to an earlier generation, when full backs were a bit more static and did not come over the halfway line so much. Possibly he was playing his career about ten years too late in terms of football evolution.
"But he was an excellent player," added Craig. "He had a particularly good game in (Alfredo] Di Stefano's benefit match just after Lisbon, and when he went to Carlisle he was a really star player down there."
Craig stressed that O'Neill deserved the winner's medal he was handed in Lisbon as an important member of the European Cup-winning squad. Up until his death, he regularly attended meetings of the surviving Lisbon Lions, while a stint working as chief barman at Baird's bar, the famous Celtic fans' watering hole next to the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow's Gallowgate, kept him, in Craig's words, "close to the Celtic support as well".
EVERYONE at Celtic Football Club is saddened to hear of the death of Willie O’Neill, who has passed away at the age of 70.
Willie, a member of the Lisbon Lions' squad, joined Celtic in 1959 and made his first-team debut two years later against Dunfermline Athletic in the Scottish Cup final replay on April 26, 1961.
A full-back, he would remain at the club until 1969, making 86 appearances for the Hoops, 32 of which came in the 1966/67 season when Jock Stein’s Celtic won every tournament they entered.
This included an important role for Willie in the 1-0 League Cup final victory over Rangers.
He also had the distinction of being Celtic’s first official substitute in a competitive game, coming on for Jimmy Johnstone against St Mirren in September 1966.
Willie left Celtic for Carlisle United in 1969, but an ankle injury forced his retirement two years later.
And over the years he remained a popular part of the Lisbon Lions' squad revered by the Celtic support.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic are with Willie’s family and friends at this very sad time.
Funeral details for Willie O’Neill to follow.
ObituaryCeltic Underground/St Anthony
Sad news reaches us today on Celtic cyberspace with the passing of Willie O’Neill.
Willie was very much part of the Lisbon era which witnessed Celtic’s greatest side.
Although not always a regular he was a vital part of the squad in that successful period.
Willie was signed from the Govan junior side Saint Anthonys and actually made his debut in the 1961 Scottish Cup replay against Dunfermline. Jock Stein’s Fifers shocked Celtic and Willie played in his familiar left back position due to Jim Kennedy going down with appendicitis. When Stein arrived at Parkhead Willie experienced several highlights as a Celt. In the 1966 League Cup final he turned a fine performance against Rangers. Before the game started Rangers fans released balloons and one of them was headed for the goal at the Celtic end. A young Celtic fan ran on the field and booted the balloon from the goal to a huge roar from the Celtic fans behind the Kings Park end goal. Incredibly, with Celtic leading 1-0 and under severe pressure with only minutes remaining, Alec Smith prodded the ball past Ronnie Simpson towards the Celtic goal where the balloon had headed earlier but Willie O'Neill saved the day by clearing in exactly the same way the young Celtic fan had done earlier !
Willie was fortunate enough to play against Real Madrid in the Bernabeau stadium in the great Alfredo Di Stefano’s testimonial game. Celtic won 1-0 but many Celtic players still recall the moment that Di Stefano nutmegged Willie, which is said to be something that never happened before.
He remained an important part of the first team squad and played, unusually at inside left, in Buenos Aires in Celtic's ill fated tie against Racing Club of Argentina in the 1967 World Club championship. Days earlier he had come on as a substitute for Bertie Auld in the League Cup final at Hampden in which Celtic emerged victorious by 5-3.
In 1969 Stein decided that Willie would be best moving on in order to play regularly and he was transferred to Carlisle United in May 1969 where he gave great service to the Cumbrian club. A few years back I met a Carlisle fan in the Centerparcs complex and he waxed lyrical about Willie, John Gorman and John Halpin who were all great players for Carlisle and had came from Celtic.
In later years Willie was one of the most popular ex Celts and could be found serving pints in Bairds bar and entertaining the fans with his humour and stories from his playing days.
Willie O’Neill was hugely popular with the Celtic fans through the years as player and publican. Another one of the Lions has passed on and is a cause of great sorrow to the Celtic family.
Thanks for the memories Willie. May eternal light shine upon you and may you rest in peace.
Latest page update: made by st.anthony
, Jul 22 2011, 5:06 AM EDT
(about this update
About This Update
Edited by st.anthony
3 words added
3 words deleted
- complete history)
More Info: links to this page