According to all those associated with Celtic Football Club, it is a club like no other. As legendary manager Jock Stein once described the iconic green and white hoops as “not for second best”, the famous remark pays tribute to those fortunate enough to have donned the Celtic colours with the greatest distinction.
This is Celtic’s top ten appearance list.
10. Jimmy McMenemy – 558 appearances, 1902-1920
League: 456, Scottish Cup: 59, League Cup: 0, Europe: 0, Other: 43
Spending 18 years at Parkhead, Jimmy McMenemy appeared in a total of 558 matches for the Hoops – a significant number of which came in the Glasgow Cup, a competition which McMenemy won on eight occasions. The inside forward netted 178 goals for Celtic which awards him a place on both the all-time appearance and goalscoring records of the club.
Carrying the unexpected nickname of “Napoleon” due to reasons only known to his former Celtic gaffer Willie Maley, McMenemy lifted eleven Scottish league titles in a successful period for the Bhoys.
9. Bobby Evans – 580 appearances, 1944-1960
League: 384, Scottish Cup: 64, League Cup: 87, Europe: 0, Other: 45
Bobby Evans, originally a striker with local Glasgow junior teams, finishes in ninth place on this list with 580 Celtic appearances over 16 years of service as the club’s consistent right half. The 48-cap Scotland international was central to manager Jimmy McGrory’s lengthy 20-year spell in charge, bringing the Scottish Cup back to Celtic Park for the first time in 14 years in 1951.
Evans was the first Hoops skipper to lift the Scottish League Cup, a trophy the club retained in the following season with a memorable 7-1 thrashing of Rangers in the 1957 League Cup Final. The match, known as “Hampden in the Sun” amongst Celtic fans, was Evans’ crowning achievement in green and white as one of the greatest Celtic performances against their Glasgow rivals in history.
8. Bobby Lennox – 599 appearances, 1961-1978 & 1979-1980
League: 340, Scottish Cup: 51, League Cup: 118, Europe: 68, Other: 22
One of two ‘Lisbon Lions’ to feature in Celtic’s top ten all-time appearance records, goalscoring great Bobby Lennox came just one match shy of 600 Celtic appearances over almost 20 years with the Hoops. Born in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Lennox’s name is held in as high regard by his adoring Celtic supporters as football fans and players worldwide, with Alfredo Di Stefano amongst his plaudits.
Netting over 300 goals from the outside left position, his legacy is almost unrivalled in the Scottish game with a European Cup winners’ medal in 1967, eleven Scottish league titles, eight Scottish Cups and five further triumphs in the League Cup. The club’s second highest scorer of all time was an untapped talent on the international stage – winning only 10 Scotland caps between 1966 and 1970.
7. Scott Brown – 615 appearances, 2007-present
League: 403, Scottish Cup: 52, League Cup: 33, Europe: 127, Other: 0
In seventh place with 615 matches in a Celtic shirt is Scott Brown – the only current Celts player to appear in the top ten.
With the most European appearances of any Celtic player, the tough midfielder has battled his way to several continental giant killings as well as an incredible domestic trophy haul. Fierce in the tackle and aggressive to all opponents, Brown is also a classy holding midfielder – often making things look all too easy on the pitch throughout Celtic’s run of nine league titles in a row.
Brown is unlikely to rise further up these appearance rankings, having agreed to join Aberdeen in summer 2021.
6. Pat Bonner – 646 appearances, 1978-1995
League: 483, Scottish Cup: 55, League Cup: 64, Europe: 40, Other: 4
The greatest keeper in Celtic history, and the only goalie on this list, Pat or Packie Bonner made 646 appearances for Celtic between 1978 and 1995. Despite having featured in Gaelic football and at youth level with Keadue Rovers in his native Ireland, Bonner was a one-club man in professional football.
Bonner’s penalty save for Ireland at the 1990 FIFA World Cup is legendary, but his work with Celtic is regarded just as highly. A year before the World Cup, Bonner was nominated for the Ballon d’Or award in 1989, finishing in 17th place off the back of four Scottish league titles with the Hoops in the 1980s.
5. Danny McGrain – 681 appearances, 1970-1987
League: 439, Scottish Cup: 60, League Cup: 106, Europe: 54, Other: 22
While the pinnacle of Danny McGrain’s football career was throughout the 1970s, his playing style as a forward-thinking full-back is more reminiscent of the role of a present day right back. Few compared to the great McGrain who made nearly 700 appearances for Celtic, forming part of an exciting Hoops side with fellow Celtic youth graduates Kenny Dalglish and Lou Macari.
Having been awarded a place in the Scottish Football Hall of Fame and an MBE for his services to the sport, McGrain’s honours list certainly speaks for itself with seven league titles, five Scottish Cup medals and a two-time winner of the League Cup with Celtic over 17 years.
4. Roy Aitken – 682 appearances, 1976-1990
League: 484, Scottish Cup: 55, League Cup: 82, Europe: 48, Other: 13
Defender and midfielder Roy Aitken is the fourth all-time record appearance holder in Celtic history, having featured 682 times for the Celts. Although his playing days extended five years after the end of his Celtic career in 1990, Aitken’s formidable reputation was formed in a green and white jersey.
Often on the scoresheet, Aitken’s trophy cabinet includes a deserved domestic double in the 1987-88 season.
3. Paul McStay – 683 appearances, 1981-1997
League: 515, Scottish Cup: 66, League Cup: 54, Europe: 43, Other: 5
With the third most appearances in the hoops of Celtic Football Club is midfield maestro Paul McStay, also known as simply ‘the Maestro’ by supporters. As 515 of McStay’s 683 Celtic appearances came in league football, he has the second highest league total of any player in the club’s history.
As a well-rounded midfielder, McStay is considered the greatest in that position for the Celts as well as his country – winning 76 Scotland caps over 14 years. He remained an integral part of the Hoops side until his retirement in 1997 and counts three league championships amongst numerous domestic accolades.
2. Alec McNair – 684 appearances, 1904-1925
League: 583, Scottish Cup: 57, League Cup: 0, Europe: 0, Other: 44
A man of many Celtic records, Bo’ness-born right back Alec McNair is the club’s longest serving player with an extensive 21 years at Celtic Park. In an era of extravagant nicknames, McNair was dubbed ‘the Icicle’ due to a cool and level-headed approach to the game. His record of 684 Celtic matches is even more impressive given the interruption of the First World War, but nevertheless his appearance total was not equalled for around 50 years.
Under the first manager of the club, Willie Maley, McNair won 18 major domestic honours. Also adept in several midfield and defensive positions, the right back has the highest number of league appearances in Celtic history, as well as holding the record for the oldest player in a green and white jersey having played his final game at the age of 41 in April 1925.
1. Billy McNeill – 822 appearances, 1957-1975
League: 486, Scottish Cup: 94, League Cup: 138, Europe: 72, Other: 32
The greatest football clubs in the world are defined by the most striking footballers to have played the game. Billy McNeill is one of these all-time greats, featuring in more than 800 Celtic games over almost 20 years in Glasgow. The European Cup-winning captain’s legacy denotes the club’s identity as he became the first Brit to lift the continent’s biggest trophy in 1967.
McNeill’s heroics on the pitch, together with the genius of manager Jock Stein, gave rise to the true glory years of Celtic Football Club. Nicknamed ‘Cesar’, his playing and management days with Celtic led to 31 major trophies at home and abroad.