What became of Celtic’s Lisbon Lions?
Jock Stein’s ‘Lisbon Lions’ side were the first British team to win the European Cup
The late Billy McNeill lifts the European Cup in 1967. Photograph: Getty Images
Celtic became the first British team to win the European Cup on May 25th, 1967.
Jock Stein’s ‘Lisbon Lions’ beat Inter Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacional in the Portuguese capital.
Here we remember the trailblazing side which made history and takes a look at what became of the players, all of whom were born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow.
The goalkeeper enjoyed one of the most spectacular Indian summers in football after joining Celtic in 1964 from Hibernian, who were then managed by Stein. Signed as understudy to John Fallon, he forced his way into the first team and made his Scotland debut aged 36 in the 3-2 Wembley win over world champions England. Six weeks later he was a European Cup winner. After hanging up his gloves in 1970, he had a spell as Hamilton boss and served as a local councillor in Edinburgh. Glasgow-born Simpson died of a heart attack in 2004.
The right-back began the 1964-65 season playing for Glasgow University while studying to become a dentist. He ended it in the Celtic reserves and he soon made the Parkhead club’s first team, becoming a regular fixture in time for Lisbon glory. Craig, who went to primary school in the shadow of Ibrox, later became a dentist and the 75-year-old is still a regular at Celtic Park, often helping with commentary duties for the club’s TV channel as well as his own on-line blog.
Motherwell-born Gemmell signed for Celtic on the same night as Jimmy Johnstone in October 1961 and the pair caught the same bus back to Lanarkshire. The attacking left-back scored the equaliser against Inter and also netted in the 1970 European Cup final defeat by Feyenoord before leaving the club for Nottingham Forest a year later. He played for and managed Dundee before running a hotel and then becoming a financial adviser, having a brief stint as Albion Rovers manager too. He remained a familiar figure at Parkhead, but died in March 2017 following a long illness.
Another Lanarkshire-born defender, the centre-back went down in history in Lisbon as the first British player to lift the European Cup. The Lisbon Lions skipper spent 18 years at Celtic as a player — making a club-record 790 appearances — and had two spells as manager, where his greatest achievement was guiding the club to the double in their centenary season, 1987-88. Nicknamed Cesar after actor Cesar Romero, who played the getaway driver in the original Ocean’s Eleven, because he was one of the few players to own a car in the early 1960s. McNeill also managed Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa and later worked in television. McNeill’s family confirmed during 2017 that he had been diagnosed with dementia. The former Celtic captain died in April 2019, aged 79.
Nicknamed ‘The Brush’, Clark was the sweeper behind McNeill — both men were born in Bellshill. He first joined Celtic in 1958 and the 78-year-old has continued his close relationship with the club, having worked at the Lennoxtown training ground and also on matchdays as the first-team kit man. Clark managed Cowdenbeath, Stranraer and Clyde before returning to Celtic, where he was a regular in the dugout until very recently.
Described by Stein as “just about the best player I had as manager”, Murdoch’s passing ability was a key feature of the Lions and his nickname ‘Chopper’ also signified his hard side. He spent 11 seasons at Celtic Park before playing for and later managing Middlesbrough. Murdoch, who was from Rutherglen just down the road from Parkhead, later had a spell as a publican. Murdoch was the first of the Lions to die after suffering a stroke at the age of 56 in 2001.
The midfielder epitomised the fearless approach of the Lions, starting a rendition of ‘The Celtic Song’ in the tunnel as the Inter team watched in bemusement. The former Birmingham player’s intervention helped settle the nerves of his team-mates and more than likely unsettled his opponents. The Glaswegian later managed the likes of Partick Thistle and Hibernian and remains a much-loved figure among his fellow Celtic supporters. Often appearing as a guest on Celtic TV, Auld was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in November 2009. Auld, now 81, showed he had not lost his singing prowess at the 2016/2017 Betfred Cup final with a table-topping, glass-thumping performance inside a Hampden executive box.
The most naturally-gifted of the Lions, ‘Jinky’ was voted the club’s greatest player by fans in 2002. The winger mesmerised many a top team other than Inter and weeks after the Lisbon triumph he stole the show in Alfredo Di Stefano’s testimonial as Celtic defeated Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. The 23-times capped Scotland international struggled to deal with his Celtic exit in 1975 and battled with alcohol problems. He returned to Celtic in a coaching role in the 1980s after finishing his playing career with spells with the likes of San Jose Earthquakes, Sheffield United, Shelbourne and Dundee. Johnstone was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, campaigning to raise money and awareness to fight the condition, and lost his battle in 2006. He is immortalised in a statue outside Celtic Park.
Hugely popular with the Celtic fans, Lennox spent 19 seasons playing for the club, minus a few months in the United States of America. He was the last Lion to retire as a player, in 1980, and stayed on in a coaching capacity at Celtic Park. He won 25 major trophies during his time with the club — almost a quarter of Celtic’s total — and his 277-goal haul is second only to Jimmy McGrory in the team’s scoring charts. Hailing from Saltcoats in Ayrshire, Lennox was the only one of the Lisbon Lions to have been born more than 10 miles from Parkhead. The 75-year-old is still a familiar face at the ground, often working as a matchday host and recently had a statue unveiled in his honour in his home town.
The man who scored the winner, Chalmers was told he had three weeks to live as a 20-year-old when he contracted tuberculosis meningitis, but was one of the first Scots to survive the illness after being given pioneering treatment. Four years later in 1959 he joined Celtic from Ashfield Juniors and had to wait six years for his first trophy, but then enjoyed unprecedented success. Glasgow-born Chalmers scored three goals in five Scotland appearances and netted 231 times in 12 years for Celtic. He later played for Morton and Partick Thistle before running an off-licence business and then becoming a sales agent for the Celtic Pools. Now 83, Chalmers, whose son Paul played for Celtic, suffered a heart attack in the late 1980s. His family revealed Chalmers was unable to attend the Lisbon Lions 50th anniversary events due to ill health, having been diagnosed with dementia.
The prolific goalscorer joined Celtic six months before Lisbon in a club record transfer from Hearts. With Joe McBride suffering a bad knee injury weeks later, ‘Wispy’ formed a partnership with Chalmers which carried Celtic to a clean sweep of trophies. Wallace, from Kirkintilloch, netted 134 goals in five years for Celtic before moving to Crystal Palace in 1972. He rounded off his career in Australia, where he still lives, but the 78-year-old has made the long journey back from Down Under to attend some games at at Celtic Park.