Celtic have had many great players over the years but only a handful that you could really call great or even legendary, these are but a few of those names.
5. Packie Bonner
Brave, athletic and a superb shot stopper, Packie joined Celtic in 1978 from Keadue Rovers and somewhat appropriately made his debut on St Patrick’s day 1979 in a 2-1 win at home to Motherwell.
His big break came in August 1980 when the popular Celtic ‘keeper Peter Latchford injured his hand and Bonner was thrown in at the deep end for Danny McGrain’s testimonial game against Manchester United at Parkhead. He gave an excellent performance in a 0-0 draw and from that day onwards he was to be the established Celtic number one.
He went on to become a mainstay of the Celtic team throughout the 1980s and the early years of the 90s. He made 642 appearances for Celtic during his 20 year career with them and won 4 Scottish League titles and 3 Scottish Cup during that time.
4. Patsy Gallacher
Patsy joined Celtic from Clydebank Juniors in 1911 and went on to spend 14 glorious years with the club.In 464 games in major competitions Patsy scored 195 goals and stand as Celtic’s sixth highest goalscorer behind Jimmy McGrory, Bobby Lennox, Henrik Larsson, Stevie Chalmers and Jimmy Quinn.
Nicknamed ”Mighty Atom” ,he was the most wonderful of dribblers and his audacious talent saw him tease and terrorise defenders. He was an entertainer but his cheeky skills also had an end product, he was also capable of delivering a killer pass or hit home an unstoppable shot.
With Celtic, Gallacher won 6 Scottish First Division Championships, 4 Scottish Cups, 4 Glasgow Cups and 11 Glasgow Charity Cups
3. Paul McStay
McStay spent his entire playing career with Celtic after signing from Celtic Boys Club in 1981. He made his first team debut for Celtic on 23 January 1982 in a 4–0 win over Queen of the South in the Scottish Cup. A week later on 30 January, he made his first league appearance in 3–1 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
A key man under Billy McNeill and then Davie Hay, the precocious youngster soon earned international recognition with Scotland and by the end of season 1985-86 – at the age of 21 – he had collected two league titles plus a Scottish Cup and a League Cup winners medals.He retired in 1997.
In 2002 he was voted a member of Celtic’s greatest ever team by the club’s fans. He is also a member of the Scotland Football Hall of Fame, which honours the best players to play in Scotland and is located in the Scottish Football Museum.
2. Jimmy Johnstone
Voted Celtic’s greatest player in a 2002 poll, Jimmy Johnstone was a player like few others in football have ever been. He had the ability to ease past the defenders, leaving them petrified.
Johnstone was one of the “Lisbon Lions”, the team that won the then European Cup for Celtic in 1967. In an early round tie against Nantes, Johnstone’s trickery on the wing saw him dubbed “The Flying Flea” by the French press, whilst his performances over the course of the season saw him finish third in the European Footballer of the Year award.
He scored 129 goals for Celtic in 515 appearances over the course of 14 years with the club. Apart from the European Cup in 1967, he also won 9 League titles and 4 Cups.
1. Billy McNeill
An undoubted Celtic great, Billy McNeill, was the captain of the Lisbon Lions,the team that won the European Cup in 1967. He was signed by Celtic from nearby junior team, Blantyre Victoria, in 1957 as a defender.
As captain he won 9 Scottish League Championships, 7 Scottish Cups, and 6 Scottish League Cups, as well as the European Cup final. He had the honour of being the first British player to lift the European Cup.He was voted the greatest ever captain of Celtic by the club’s fans in 2002.
He retired as a player in 1975 after over 800 appearances for Celtic. During his career, he won 29 caps for Scotland. The following quote from Jock Stein sums up Billy McNeill’s importance to the Celtic sides of the era perfectly:
“What makes a great player? He’s the one who brings out the best in others. When I am saying that I’m talking about Billy McNeill.”