Simpson, goalkeeper for Celtic's 'Lisbon Lions', dies at 70

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The Independent Online

Billy McNeill, captain of the Lisbon Lions, has led the tributes to his former Celtic team-mate Ronnie Simpson. The one-time Hoops and Newcastle goalkeeper has died at the age of 73 after a heart attack.

Billy McNeill, captain of the Lisbon Lions, has led the tributes to his former Celtic team-mate Ronnie Simpson. The one-time Hoops and Newcastle goalkeeper has died at the age of 73 after a heart attack.

Simpson kept goal at Parkhead between 1964 and 1970 after twice winning the FA Cup with the Magpies in the 1950s. McNeill described Simpson's death as adding to the feeling of loss of invincibility among the Celtic heroes who beat Internazionale on 25 May 1967 following the death of Bobby Murdoch two years ago.

"When Bobby died, it was particularly hard because we lost our invincibility," McNeill said. "Now Ronnie has joined him and it is a very sad day for me. The news today has hit me very hard I must admit. Ronnie was a lovely man, great company, a terrific colleague and the perfect goalkeeper for us. I have lots and lots of fond memories of Ronnie but, unfortunately, they are only memories now.

"Ronnie was as much a footballer as he was a goalkeeper. Anything that went in behind us defenders, Ronnie would come out and do something about it. He had this wonderful habit of pulling off terrific saves when they were needed."

The present Celtic goalkeeper, Rob Douglas, said he owes a huge debt to Simpson. "Ronnie was fantastic to me, as supportive as anyone I have come across," Douglas said. "He played the position, so he knew just how hard it can be and, over the last year or so, he's taken more and more time to talk to me. He always had the decency to come up and offer a kind word or two, and the last time I spoke to him, he told me that it looked like I had a spring in my step again."

Simpson made his debut for Queen's Park a month before his 15th birthday in 1945 and, after doing his National Service in Catterick, joined Third Lanark in 1950. Within a year, he had moved to Tyneside where he won the FA Cup in 1952 and 1955 - the last domestic silverware won by Newcastle.

Simpson returned to Scotland in 1960 when he joined Hibernian, where he stayed until Jock Stein sold him to Celtic four years later. The Hibs manager teamed up with the keeper again at Parkhead within the year.

Simpson made his debut at the Nou Camp against Barcelona where the visitors lost 3-1. But in 1967 Simpson joined the ranks of Celtic legends for his part in helping the club become the first British team to win the European Cup. He also played in another historic game when he made his debut for Scotland in the 3-2 win over the then world champions England at Wembley.

The former Rangers player John Greig, who played in that international with Simpson, also paid tribute to the goalkeeper. Greig said: "That day at Wembley in 1967 was simply fantastic and Ronnie played his part. He was a very good goalkeeper and we remained on very good terms after we stopped playing."

Simpson retired in 1970 but made one final appearance at Parkhead a year later when the Lisbon Lions played together for one final time.

He took over as manager of Hamilton Academical but he stayed at the club for less than a year. He continued to work at Parkhead up until his death, going to the club on matchdays helping out in hospitality suites.

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