PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
Cesar - The Billy McNeill Story; Celtic FC; running time 90 minutes; £16.99
When you take one of the greatest Celts of all time as the subject matter for a film it’s hard to make a mess of it. Especially so with Big Billy. Unlike Jimmy McGrory and Willy Maley, Cesar played at a time when football was being covered by the cameras. Not the saturation coverage we have these days, but enough to give anyone who didn’t see the great man in his pomp a fair idea of what he was like on the field.
There’s no shortage of memorable matches featured here, given that in nearly 800 appearances, Cesar played in a Celtic side that won 12 leagues, seven Scottish Cups, six League Cups and a European Cup.
His almost unbelievable playing career is recounted by the man himself with a modesty that would put today’s overpaid egomaniacs to shame. The fact that he earned as much in his entire playing career as some of today’s imposters earn in a year is as much of a reason to buy this as any other I can think of.
Aside from Big Billy’s own recollections, ex team mates like Mike Jackson, Bobby Lennox and Bertie Auld pay their own tributes and share their anecdotes of McNeill.
Even former opponent John Greig gets a few cameos, and very well he comes across too.
Greig, of course, was in direct opposition to McNeill as a manager, and the part of the film which deals with Billy’s career as Celtic boss (both stints) is fascinating - his time in England with Villa and Man City is glossed over fairly briefly and understandably.
There are plenty of interviews with members of the Centenary squad, and lots of goals from that incredible season in the club’s history.
Sadly, with Rangers about to embark on a spending spree of Viv Nicholson proportions which they still can’t pay for even today, the writing was on the wall shortly afterwards, especially when the Biscuit tin was clamped firmly shut with ‘stadium improvements’ to be paid for. You can still see that his sacking in 1991 touches a bit of a raw nerve. You can understand why when you watch Jack McGinn’s shambling contribution - basically, ‘It wisnae me, it was somebody else, I was on holiday.’
McNeill’s stories of the circumstances at the club with regard to transfer fees when he was faced with the Souness and Murray circus at Ibrox are gut wrenching. Such a pity that a man like McNeill was a victim of the balloons running Celtic at the time.
Billy’s story is brought up to date with some contemporary footage of him enjoying his role as Celtic Ambassador, a post that was long overdue but an appointment which the current board have got spot on.
Overall then, this is a DVD that does justice to the McNeill legend and is a thoroughly enjoyable way to pass 90 minutes.
If I was to have one complaint it would be that the DVD copy I have has no special features, and by that I mean not even chapters for ease of finding specific points in the film.
That aside it’s a tremendous nostalgia rush for older fans and for he young whippersnappers out there, a perfect illustration of why being in the presence of this man makes dads or grandpas go all star struck.