Billy McNeill was a hero to every young Celtic fan growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.
He was certainly mine.
But it wasn’t just what he did on the pitch for the Hoops that had me looking up to him.
It was also the fact that I literally looked up to him on every Sunday morning when I went to chapel with my family.
I still remember those mornings.
We went to Christ The King church on Carmunnock Road, next to my primary school, St Mirin’s.
It had never been my favourite time of the week because all I wanted to do as a wee guy was play football with my pals.
As far as I was concerned, chapel was getting in the way!
But then, one day, in I walked and there he was – my team’s heroic skipper, “Cesar”, Billy McNeill.
And not just Billy – Jock Stein’s assistant manager, Sean Fallon, was there, too.
They would be there in their Sunday best, with their own families, and I’d just watch them, in awe.
It turned out Billy had some family in the same street I lived on.
Afterwards, when I finally got out to play football, you can bet the games had that wee extra edge to them.
Everybody would be pretending to be a Celtic player, and as a wee attacking type, I’d be shouting about being wee Jinky Johnstone.
But in my head, I’d be picturing big Billy McNeill.
Billy will always rightly be associated with lifting the European Cup in Lisbon.
Unfortunately for me, I was only seven years old when it happened, so I don’t have any memories of watching the match on TV at that time.
The game of that era that really stands out in my mind came three years after Lisbon, when Leeds United came to Hampden to face the Hoops in the European Cup semi-final.
I was only 10, so there was no way my parents were going to let me go along to the game.
But I grew up in Simshill, and living that close to the stadium, the temptation was just too much for me and my pals.
One of my school friends lived in Curling Crescent, just off Aikenhead Road.
Luckily for us, his back garden ran all the way right up to the wall at the back of the Celtic End.
In those days, that was the uncovered end of the ground.
So we just waited until the crowd inside had built up, then used a ladder to climb the wall into Hampden.
And there I was, along with the 136,505 who had actually paid to get in!
If my parents had known what I was up to, they would have torn strips off me.
Thankfully, they were none the wiser, and me and my mates got to watch the Hoops beat Leeds to reach the Final.
Billy Bremner scored an absolute cracker to put the English champions ahead on the night.
But it was a different Billy who would have the last laugh – not that he would have seen it that way.
Cesar was magnificent as Celtic’s captain that night.
A modern player with his quality would probably be swanning around the pitch with his ego on show.
But Billy was a different sort of guy – a gentleman – and his conduct was always exemplary.
The proof was in the pudding with him.
Everybody who encountered him has said as much in the days since his passing.
Years after my Hampden escapades, once I had made it as a footballer, I ran into Billy down south.
I was a Manchester United player at the time and Billy was Manchester City manager.
Our respective clubs were rivals, but there was never any sign of that from the big man.
He was always friendly, always welcoming, always keen to say “Hello” and have a chat about the family.
When I heard Billy was unwell, I felt incredibly sad for him and his family.
Two years ago, the surviving Lisbon Lions were guests at a fundraising dinner for the Celtic Foundation I was involved in at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.
I had hoped Billy would make it, but it wasn’t to be.
We had a wonderful night in his absence – and raised £2-million for the Foundation.
To my surprise, I was presented with a personalised Celtic shirt after the event, signed by Willie Wallace, Bertie Auld, Jim Craig, Bobby Lennox and John Clark.
Billy’s signature isn’t there.
But the big man has got pride of place on the wall of my study at home.
Every time I walk in, I see a framed photo of him leading Celtic out in Lisbon.
Like every Celtic fan, I’ll always remember him like that, as a legend.
But I’ll also remember the gentleman I saw at chapel as a kid.