Born: December 30, 1940; Died: April 28, 2011.

WILLIE O’Neill who has died aged 70, was one of the Celtic players who contributed to their annus mirabilis of season 1966-67. He played 32 games during that campaign, and was awarded winners medals, but missed-out on being one of the 11 fabled Lisbon Lions who were actually on the field in the European Cup final, the absolute peak of that season.

A local Glasgow boy, he joined Celtic in October, 1959, one of the young Kelly Kids whom club chairman (Sir) Robert Kelly saw as the future of the club. In his early Parkhead days he was coached by Jock Stein, and it was against Stein’s Dunfermline Athletic side that he made his first-team debut on just about the biggest stage of all – Hampden Park, for the Scottish Cup Final replay on April 26, 1961. O’Neill’s inclusion for Jim Kennedy, who had been injured in the first final on the previous Saturday, was the only change Celtic made; but his was an unhappy debut as the unfancied Pars won 2-0.

His Celtic career lasted 10 years, during which he managed a mere 85 games, scoring three goals. But this should in no way reflect on his ability – competition for the numbers two and three shorts in those days was intense and he was fighting for a place against four Scottish internationalists: Dunky McKay, Kennedy and the Lisbon Lions pairing of Jim Craig and Tommy Gemmell, as well as the able Ian Young and, towards the end of his Celtic career the young David Hay. He won medals as a squad player but only once knew the joy of parading a national trophy round Hampden, when he was at left back for the 1-0 League Cup win in October, 1966, which brought Celtic the first trophy of that legendary “Greenwash” season in which the club won every competition it entered. He played a crucial role in that win too, with one goal-line clearance preventing a seemingly certain Rangers goal.

He was a solid and reliable player, a good squad man, as he demonstrated when he became the club’s first official substitute – coming on for Jimmy Johnstone in a match against St Mirren in September, 1966. He was an excellent passer and while never an established player, he did play in some prestigious games. He was a first-choice for the early European games en route to Lisbon, while he played in the celebrated Alfredo Di Stefano Testimonial game in Madrid and in the first of the two “kicking matches” against Racing Club in the 1968 World Club Championship games.

In terms of appearances, 1966-67 was his best season; but he fell out of favour in the second half of that campaign. Stein valued his experience in the reserves, where he was one of the older players charged with teaching good habits on the park to the Quality Street Kids such as Kenny Dalglish, Hay, George Connelly and Danny McGrain.

In April, 1969 he played his final first team game for Celtic, against Dundee, and the following month he left for Carlisle United on a £10,000 fee.

At Brunton Park he joined a side playing in the old Second Division and in the middle of a remarkable rise from the Fourth to the First Division. He immediately felt at home amongst a squad which included some good Scottish players: goalkeeper Allan Ross, fellow full backs Hugh Neil and Joe Davis; midfielder Tommy Murray and striker Hughie McIllmoyle. These were good days for United, but sadly for O’Neill his time with the club was marred by injuries, most-notably the troublesome ankle knock which forced his premature retirement in 1971.

O‘Neill actually made his Carlisle debut against Celtic in a pre-season friendly, won by the Cumbrians on the back of brilliant displays from ex-Celt O’Neill and Rangers-supporting goalkeeper Ross, both of whom had emerged from Glasgow junior football with St Anthony’s and Petershill respectively.

After football O’Neill had several jobs, most memorably a 20-year stint, finishing up as head barman, in that well-known Celtic house, Baird’s Bar, where the regulars remember a cheerful character with a dry sense of humour – a Celtic legend as one of the 1966-67 squad, but first and foremost, a fan.

Willie O’Neill is survived by Ruth, their sons Martin and Stuart, daughters Lorraine and Suzanne and two grand-children.

He was a journeyman player in a squad of artists, but as those who saw that great Celtic team play will tell you – even the journeymen would be stars in today’s game.