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McNeill leads Johnstone tributes
13 March 2006
 
Ex-Celtic captain Billy McNeill has paid tribute to ex-team-mate and fellow Lisbon Lion Jimmy Johnstone, who died on Monday from motor neurone disease. The duo were in the side that won the European Cup in 1967 and McNeill said: "Jimmy was a lovely wee man and was a team-mate and a friend to all of us.
 
"I was lucky enough to play alongside him but I have as much respect for the courageous way he handled his illness. "He loved the Celtic fans. This news is devastating for everyone."
 
Tommy Gemmell, who was also in the Celtic team that beat Inter Milan in 1967, said Johnstone would go down in history as the club's finest ever player. "It's a tragedy. We've lost a great pal and a colleague," said Gemmell. "He fought the disease with great courage and he stood up to it well.

"On the pitch he had the heart of a lion and the ability of a maestro. He was an unbelievable player, as good as any you will see. "We have lost a magnificent player who created a lot of history for the club. I doubt very much if we'll see his like again."

Another ex-team-mate, Bertie Auld, said he could not believe Johnstone had passed away. "I still can't get to grips with the news. You know what a player he was, but what a person. He was the kindest guy in the world," said Auld.

"All the time he was lying there he never complained. I saw him on Friday and, like any time you met him, you left feeling a stronger person.

"Jimmy was so desperate to help other people with the same disease, he wanted a cure for it even though he knew he couldn't be helped." Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said it was a very sad day for the Parkhead outfit.

"It is a sad time for the whole Celtic family," said Lawwell. "Jimmy was rightly regarded as the greatest ever Celt. "This was an accolade the Celtic supporters voted to give him and was a measure of the esteem in which they held him, even above the many great players who have played for the club over the years. "Our thoughts are with Jimmy's wife Agnes and his family and friends."

Glasgow Lord Provost Liz Cameron added: "Jinky was loved and admired by millions of football fans. "His death, after a tremendously brave battle against an awful illness, will be mourned not just in Glasgow, but in cities and towns all across the world.

"This is a very sad day indeed."

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Source: BBC
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