Born at Netherburn near Dalserf, Lanarkshire, full back Willie McStay signed for Glasgow Celtic from Larkhall Thistle in January 1912 but spent his first few seasons on loan at Ayr United before finally making his breakthrough for the Bhoys in season 1916-17. His Scottish League debut for Celtic came on August 19th 1916 when Celtic defeated St Mirren 5-1 at Love Street. Although his favoured position was at left-back McStay also turned out reguarlly as a centre-half and he excelled in both positions.
His Celtic career was interrupted by the First World War and as a soldier McStay turned out as a loan signing for both Distillery and Belfast Celtic. He returned to Parkhead in 1919 but McStay fell out with the club in the immediate wake of their 1923 Scottish Cup triumph when the committee decided that despite the cup success they would cut the players wages. McStay went AWOL and was suspended by the club. During this period he headed to the United States, and with some US clubs paying the handsome sum of £14 a week to players, Willie made an appearance for the New York Giants. His stay in America was brief and he returned to Glasgow and Celtic in time for the start of the new season. In little over a year he was made club captain, taking over from William Cringan.
As skipper he inspired his side to a famous 5-0 trouncing of Rangers in the 1925 Scottish Cup semi-final and with so many great attributes it is perhaps unsurprising he went on to become a fine captain both for Celtic and Scotland. For Scotland he won 13 caps between February 1921, when he was first selected to play against Wales in a 2-1 win at Pittodrie, and February 1928. He also represented The Scottish League on 10 occasions between April 1919 and March 1928.
As captain McStay guided Celtic to the League Championship in 1926 (in addition to having helped Celtic to the 1917, 1919 and 1922 League titles), and two Scottish Cup triumphs (1925 and 1927, wins over Dundee and East Fife respectively). He eventually left The Hoops in the summer of 1929 when he joined Hearts for £250, where he made 14 appearances, succeeded as Celtic captain by his brother Jimmy McStay. By then he had made 446 appearances and scored 39 goals for Celtic.
He retired from playing in 1930 and was later manager of Irish League Glentoran for a period in the mid-1930’s.
He played at Celtic with his younger brother, Jimmy McStay, and additionally his great-nephews, Paul and Willie, also played for Celtic in the 1980’s and 1990’s.