Discussion in 'The Lisbon Lions' started by HoopswithPride, Feb 25, 2017.
Discuss Billy McNeill - Rest In Peace Cesar. in the The Lisbon Lions area at TalkCeltic.net.
Heartbreaking story in tomorrows DR with Billy's wife discussing his condition and Dementia.
Heart of a Lion.
his wife is in the papers tomorrow
CELTIC legend Billy McNeill’s family last night revealed he is battling dementia.
The stricken Lisbon Lions hero has been robbed of his speech by the degenerative brain illness.
Billy, 76, is now being cared for at his home in Newton Mearns, Glasgow, by devoted wife Liz, 73.
She said: “We just live day by day.”
The hero was diagnosed after he begged his wife for answers as he realised his memory was failing — pleading: “Is there something wrong with me?”
But his face still lights up as he walks into Celtic Park – and when he’s feeling strong enough he takes his seat in the directors’ box to watch his beloved team in action.
STRICKEN Billy McNeill begged his wife for answers as he realised his memory was failing — pleading: “Is there something wrong with me?”
The frightened Lisbon Lion didn’t understand why he had started mixing up his words and was struggling to speak.
Fearing for his health, he appealed to his beloved wife Liz, 73, to tell him if he was ill.
Shortly afterwards the Hoops legend and his family were given the heartbreaking news he had been diagnosed with dementia.
Liz said: “We were sitting in the house one evening when he said, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’.
“He was mixing up his words. For example, I would say something about the car outside and he would reply with something about the Hoover.
“He must have been worried. He knew himself something was wrong.
“I just said to him, ‘Your memory isn’t so good’. I didn’t want to frighten him.”
The former Scottish Sun columnist — voted the Hoops’ greatest ever captain — was seen by a consultant soon after making the desperate appeal to Liz.
Billy, now 76, underwent a string of medical tests before doctors delivered the shock findings.
Liz revealed: “They said he had dementia. Billy was there in the room when we were told but I don’t know if he really understood it.
‘It’s difficult, his brain won’t let him speak’
“We didn’t know much about it as we had no experience of it within the family.
“At the time of diagnosis, you don’t really think of how it’s going to continue in years to come.”
The condition means that Billy — who was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago — can no longer communicate through words.
Instead, he now relies mostly on hand gestures to let devoted Liz know how he’s feeling.
She said: “He had to stop driving as soon as he was diagnosed, and from there it’s been a gradual deterioration.
“His concentration is not as good as it was and he now can’t communicate very well.
“It’s affected his speech over the last year or two.
“Sometimes, if something annoys him, he can still say a few words like ‘don’t do that’.
“But in general he finds it very difficult. It’s not because he doesn’t know how to speak.
“There’s just a part of his brain that won’t let him. I miss the conversation.
“He knows what you are saying, but it’s hard for him to communicate back — and it’s frustrating for you as you try hard to understand.”
Loyal Liz now dedicates her life to caring for Billy with the support of their kids Susan, 52, twins Carol and Libby, 51, Paula, 46, and 41-year-old son Martyn.
The couple married in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, in 1963 and Liz was at her husband’s side as his career in football took him all over the world.
But their current routine at home in Newton Mearns, Glasgow, is a far cry from the jetset lifestyle he enjoyed during his days as a player and manager.
Billy — nicknamed Cesar by team-mates — spent his entire playing career with the Hoops, making a record 832 appearances between 1958 and 1975, and won 29 caps for Scotland.
His defining moment came in 1967, when he captained the Lisbon Lions against Inter Milan to clinch the European Cup.
At the age of 35, he hung up his boots and embarked upon a glittering management career, famously leading Celtic to three league championships after taking charge of the club in 1978.
And he also went on to enjoy stints at the helm of Clyde, Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa before finally returning to Parkhead in 1987.
During his second spell as gaffer, the Bhoys won the league and cup double in 1988 — the club’s centenary year — which cemented Billy’s status as a Celtic legend.
His condition means he now has to spend a lot of time resting.
But when he and Liz do pop out together, footie fans still recognise him straight away and want to tell him how much they admire him.
Liz said: “Billy basically sleeps until I wake him.
“He sometimes gets up about 9.30am and he might have some breakfast, but he often goes back to bed. We usually go out about lunch time. He likes to meet people.
“Billy constantly has people coming up to him because he’s so well known.
“Some will say, ‘I’m not a football fan, but you did great in your career’. He’s held in great regard.”
Protective Liz admitted she doesn’t speak to Billy about his dementia in case it leaves him feeling vulnerable and scared. But she will quietly confide his condition to people who approach him to chat not realising he’s unable to respond.
She explained: “I might say to them ‘He’s got dementia’ because he can’t speak to them.
“But I’ve never made a big announcement about it. We didn’t want him to feel as if he has dementia. It’s never said to him by the family.
“We didn’t hide it, but we considered it a private matter.”
Liz is determined to keep looking after her husband without outside help while he’s still able to walk by himself. But she admits the day could come when she needs to turn to external agencies for assistance in caring for him. She said: “There are support groups available, though we haven’t used them yet.
“The family have all been very supportive. When it comes to your doorstep, you have to deal with it the best you can.”
In a show of his inner strength, grandad-of-eight Billy, who had a triple heart bypass in 1997, has remained as independent as possible during his current illness.
Liz revealed: “As his condition has progressed, he’s seemed to accept it. He can still do quite a lot for himself.
“He can tie his shoelaces and dress himself, but I help to make it a bit quicker and easier.”
And the debilitating illness has not managed to destroy the physical wellbeing Billy enjoyed during his football career.
Liz said: “In general he keeps quite well. He is quite strong. He still has a great appetite though he has lost some weight.
“He would have been limping and hobbling by now anyway because of all his football injuries. He’s had a new hip and a new knee, and he’s needing his other knee done.
“But that’s not happened because of the recovery that would be involved.”
The McNeill family have asked for a donation to be made to Alzheimer’s Scotland.
Raises the issue of a link and need for more research into the heading of footballs back in the day.
Heard Jeff Astle's daughter discussing the subject on the radio the other day.
Terrible condition. Hopefully the club are making sure the big man is getting the care he deserves.
Tragic. Giant of a man.
Hail Hail Cesar!
That's a hard read. It's hard enough for us fans to see him deteriorate but i can only imagine what his family are going through seeing him this way.
Stay strong Billy.
So sad. I hope him and his family find some peace.
I personally think it is disgusting his family want 'justice' for their dad. The guy did what he loved, what every single young lad wanted to do. Who is to blame for that? No one!
Maybe for another thread though.
Gutted at this news, thoughts are with him and his family!
It's a terrible illness It's like the person you knew is disappearing before your eyes. I can relate to all that she is saying when I look at my mum and she's no longer able to stand or walk at all
It's no a nice thing to say and we all know he hasn't been well for a long time now, but he really does look in the face and skin that he can't have too much fighting left..