Celtic fans have flocked to Celtic Park to pay tribute to former Celtic captain and manager Billy McNeill who has died

Sisters Ann McMeekin, 51, and Claire Gilchrist, 35, from Glasgow, laid flowers at the statue of Billy McNeil with Claire’s son Daniel outside Celtic Park.

READ MORE: Obituary: Billy McNeill, legendary Celtic captain and manager

The siblings, both lifelong Celtic fans, said they felt a special connection to the Celtic captain because their father, David Connor, passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease four years ago.

The pair have since dedicated their spare time to fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society, raising more than £10,000 to help others with the incurable condition and to fund research.

Anne said: “My dad was involved with the Celtic Boys club so we have a long connection to the club. We met Billy at a charity dance and he was lovely. Chatty and approachable. 

“We wanted to come down and pay our respects because of what he meant to the club, and also to show support for his family.

“Alzheimer’s is a brutal disease. We did not realise how bad it was until my dad got it. It’s so hard on the family, although he was gone quickly in just a matter of months.”

READ MORE: Tributes paid to Celtic legend Billy McNeill 

She added: “I was born in 1968 so I’m too young to remember the Lisbon Lions. But I always remember my mum and dad talking about it, and the celebrations in the streets.

“The whole of the football community will be talking about this.”

Donna Dickey, 51, from Tillicoultrey, wiped tears from her eyes as she laid a scarf at the feet of the iconic statue of Celtic’s officially-named greatest ever captain.

She said: “I grew up a Celtic fan, and he was our captain. There will be fans around the world who are heartbroken by this news. 

“Billy McNeil was bigger than just Celtic, and everybody who supports football should mourn his passing. 

“He was from an older generation when football was football – not just about money.”

Ms Dickey, who recently returned from a trip to Portugal, said she had visited the site of McNeil’s greatest triumph. 

She added: “I went to Lisbon and went round the national stadium. I stood where Billy McNeil did, and I met Celtic fans there.

“He will never be forgotten and the memory of what he meant to the club will always be cherished by its fans.”

Supporter Mary Taylor said: “I’ve come to pay my respects for one of the greatest Celts ever. I’m absolutely devastated.

“It’s a tough one for everyone at Celtic.

“He just embodies what Celtic meant: a gentleman, a family man and Celtic to core.

“He was a player, a captain and a manager. He went right through the ranks and was a well respected and kind man.”

Publican Nicky Stewart, 69, came to say a prayer for the departed Celtic captain at the feet of the iconic statue. 

Mr Stewart, a lifelong season-ticket holder, travelled to Lisbon as a teenager with his father David to see Celtic win the European Cup in 1967.

He said: “We went, just the two of us, on a chartered flight. I had never been abroad before so it was a big adventure.

“It was bloody great. The atmosphere was incredible – but my dad did not drink at all so we weren’t in the thick of it.

“We went out, saw the game and came back the next day. This was long before that sort of thing became normal.”

Mr Stewart, owner of the McChuills bar, added: “In football terms, Billy wasn’t the best player in that team – although he was a bloody good centre half. 

“But he was a leader and an inspiration, and he could lift the team on to great things. And did, that night in Lisbon.

“If he hadn’t been a footballer he would have been a movie star or a politician. He was a guy all the young men looked up to – handsome, intelligent, a professional footballer and captain of his team. He had that charisma that made him special.”