Warm tributes have been paid to Linfield and Glasgow Rangers footballing legend Billy Simpson, who died in a Glasgow hospital yesterday after a lengthy illness. He was 87.
South Belfast man Billy, who won 12 Northern Ireland caps in the 1950s and was a member of the squad that went to the World Cup Finals in Sweden in 1958, grew up in the Donegall Road area close to Windsor Park.
He signed for Linfield for the 1946 season and made 143 appearances, scoring 93 goals. He won Irish League winners’ medals in 1948/49 and 1949/50 and picked up Irish Cup winners’ medals in 1947/48 and 1949/50. He also won three Gold cup winners’ medals
Billy, an old-fashioned striker, was transferred to Rangers on October 19, 1950 in a £11,500 deal, which was a then record for the Glasgow giants. With Rangers, he made 262 appearances and scored 174 goals and won Scottish League winners’ medals in 1952/53, 1955/56 and 1956/57 and also won a Scottish Cup winners’ medal in 1952/53.
For Northern Ireland, Billy headed the winning goal against England at Wembley in a memorable 3-2 Home Championship win in 1957.
He was highly popular with Ibrox fans who dubbed him ‘King Billy’. He left Rangers in 1959 for Stirling Albion and then had short spells with Partick Thistle and Oxford before retirement in 1961.
Last month, Linfield and Rangers Football Club joined in a tribute to Billy Simpson at a dinner at Ibrox Park. Due to illness, he could not attend. But Linfield directors made a presentation for Billy to his wife Margaret, on behalf of their club and five Linfield supporters’ clubs. Other members of the Simpson family were present, along with Rangers Vice-Chairman Paul Murray and former Ibrox players Willie Henderson, John Brown and Mark Hateley.
Billy Simpson said he always cherished playing for both Linfield and Rangers - “the Blues Brothers”. “It was an honour to play for my beloved Linfield - the club will always have a very special place in my heart”.
Linfield Vice-Chairman Billy Kennedy said Billy Simpson was one of the most modest men he had met in football. “Billy loved Linfield and Rangers and his scoring record in the royal blue jerseys of Belfast and Glasgow was quite phenomenal. He was a true legend,” said Mr Kennedy.
Rangers Vice-Chairman Mr Murray said he was saddened to hear the news of Billy’s death. “The term ‘legend’ is used freely in football but in Billy’s case it was richly deserved. I was delighted to host a tribute evening to Billy at Ibrox last month and it was particularly fitting that we were joined by our good friends from Linfield,” he said.