As a player he was a one-team man and there’s no doubting where Billy McNeill’s allegiances lay.
During a glittering playing career for his boyhood heroes Celtic, McNeill won nine successive league titles and was the first British man to lift the European Cup when he captained the Lisbon Lions to a famous triumph over Inter Milan.
He later went on to manage Celtic on two occasions, collecting a further four league championships.
But before he took the reins at Celtic for the first time in 1978, he was a success story in the north-east.
Following a stint coaching Celtic’s under-16 side, he had a brief two-month spell at Clyde before taking over at Aberdeen in June 1977.
The task facing him at Pittodrie was not an easy one. In Ally McLeod, who left Aberdeen to take over as Scotland boss, the Dons were losing a manager who was a firm fan favourite.
McLeod had built a great rapport with supporters and won the League Cup in 1976.
The transfer of popular winger Arthur Graham to Leeds within weeks of McNeill’s arrival gave him a bumpy start but a 3-1 victory over Rangers at Pittodrie in McNeill’s first game helped his cause.
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) April 23, 2019
Aberdeen looked like serious title contenders under McNeill’s management in 1977-78 and although he was happy with the defence he had inherited from McLeod, he acknowledged his midfield needed bolstering.
In November 1977, he pulled off a major coup when he landed Gordon Strachan from Dundee and on Christmas Eve, McNeill increased the level of adulation among Aberdeen supporters when his side thumped champions Rangers 4-0 at Pittodrie.
Striker Steve Archibald arrived from Clyde in early 1978 as Aberdeen continued a rich vein of form that ultimately put them within two wins of a league and Scottish Cup double.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our former manager, Billy McNeill who has passed away at the age of 79. pic.twitter.com/s0edjiyIUP
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) April 23, 2019
Rangers managed to hang on for the league title and triumph in the final, but despite the disappointment a runners-up spot was the Dons best league finish in six seasons.
Further disappointment was just around the corner as Jock Stein left Parkhead for Leeds and it was no surprise when Celtic legend McNeill was approached to replace him.