Footballer and teacher; Born January 21, 1943; Died March 24, 2008. JOHN Cushley, who has died aged 65 after a brave battle against motor neurone disease, was a fine footballer whose career was blighted by having to follow a legend.

At Our Lady's High School in Motherwell, he followed Billy McNeill into the school team, where one of his team mates was another future Celt, the late Bobby Murdoch. Then, when the 17-year-old Cushley left Blantyre Celtic to sign for Celtic in 1960, he found McNeill beginning to establish himself in the Hoops as the replacement for Scotland captain Bobby Evans.

Cushley learned his trade in the reserves, while at the same time reading for a modern languages degree in French and Spanish at Glasgow University. He made his first-team debut for Celtic against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in March, 1963 - a game which a below-strength side lost 6-0; future first-team outings were largely to depend on injury or international calls for McNeill.

But when he was called upon to deputise for "Cesar" or asked to fill in alongside him, Cushley never let Celtic down. He played just 41 games in a seven-year spell at Celtic Park.

His playing career with the club he loved is perhaps best remembered for two off-field incidents: when, as interpreter, he accompanied manager Jimmy McGrory to Spain in 1964 in an ill-fated attempt to persuade Alfredo di Stefano to join Celtic, and when he was sent out by manager Jock Stein to bag the favoured bench prior to Celtic's European Cup final triumph over Inter Milan in Lisbon, in May 1967.

Three months later, he left Celtic to join West Ham United in a £10,000 transfer deal.

His two years at Upton Park saw him play regularly in the star-studded Hammers side of the time, alongside England greats Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore.

As he had at Celtic, Cushley combined his teaching and football careers when in London, before returning to Scotland in 1970 to play out his career with Dunfermline Athletic then Dumbarton.

Retiring from the game, he continued to do some coaching while also teaching English and modern languages at St Bride's RC High School in East Kilbride and at St Patrick's RC High School in Coatbridge, then becoming deputy head at St Ambrose High School, Coatbridge.

Retiring from teaching in 2003, he returned to Celtic Park as education and welfare officer, helping to set the club's young players on the right road in life, a role to which he was well-suited.

Last summer he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, the same illness which had claimed the life of Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone.

After a dignified battle he died in the early hours of Monday morning.

John is survived by Mary, his wife of more than 38 years, his sons Jonathan and Stephen and daughters Marie-Clare and Joanne, and by two grand-daughters.