Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Win it for Jock

Win it for Jock

Few Celtic supporters will need reminding that the 10th of September 1985 was the day we lost one of the towering figures of Celtic's history. Jock Stein's passing in Cardiff on that lamentable evening 31 years ago sent a shock wave through Scottish football and indeed Scottish society. The 'big man' so in control, so dominant in the situations he found himself in was taken at the absurdly early age of 62. His legacy though will live long in the hearts and minds of all who follow Celtic.

It is by coincidence that this weekend's Glasgow Derby match will take place on the 31st anniversary of Jock's passing. As Jock's Celtic set out to destroy Rangers' dominance of Scottish football in 1965, he knew well the forces in Scottish society which would not be amenable to a Celtic takeover. His attitude to the press was one of brow beating them into line. Few reporters dared overstep the mark and one who did learned a harsh lesson. It came during a match at Hampden when it was planned that a helicopter would land on the pitch. This was cancelled due to weather conditions and the reporter was heard to say 'Pity, it might have crashed on the Celtic end.' Word of this got back to Stein who sought the man out and in front of astonished press pack pinned him to the wall by the throat and told him exactly what would happen to him if he talked such nonsense again. His clashes with the BBC Sports team of the time were legendary and Archie McPherson spoke in his biography of an unhealthy anti-Catholic atmosphere in the BBC Sports office he came to work in as a young reporter.  McPherson saw at first hand Stein’s ability to influence certain sectors of the media and once said…

‘He came to Celtic not just to manage them but to battle for them.’

Stein's own father, staunch in his support of the Ibrox club could never bring himself to wish Jock good luck when his side took on Rangers. Jock's experiences of being shunned by former friends when he joined Celtic in the 1950s had also marked him deeply. His close friend Sean Fallon witnessed erstwhile friends from Jock's home town of Burnbank turn their backs on him and knew that it not only hurt Jock but angered him too. Stein once said...

"I lost some friends when I made the move, but if that's what matters to them, then they're not really friends at all."

So it was that Jock set out on his mission to make Celtic the dominant side in Scotland with a burning desire not only to eclipse Rangers but to totally dominate them. Bertie Auld recalled in his biography that Stein would publically play down Old Firm games by stating that beating Rangers would get you the same points as beating any other team but in the dressing room he filled his players with immense motivation and a hunger to succeed. Stein knew the psychological value of defeating Rangers as well as the joy it brought to the Celtic supporters. Auld said...

‘Publicly Jock would tell everyone that it was just another game. Privately he thoroughly enjoyed putting one over on our oldest rivals. I would go as far as to say Jock detested Rangers.’

If you know the history then you will know that Stein led Celtic to the most successful era in their history. 25 major trophies were won in 11 exhilarating years. Jock led Celtic to nine successive League titles and made them the most feared team in Europe. The pinnacle of his achievement was becoming Champions of Europe in 1967. This was an event so seismic that it was hard for some among the Rangers support to swallow. Fed a diet of success and sycophantic media coverage it was difficult to accept that the Stein revolution had made the east end upstarts the best team in Europe. The underachieving Celtic of the post war years was gone and in its place a well-oiled attacking machine drove from victory to victory. It could be argued that in seeking to emulate the achievements of Stein’s Celtic, Rangers greatly overspent and in the end were consumed by their own overweening ambition and hubris.  The seeds of Rangers’ liquidation were not planted by Murray or Whyte but by eleven pale Scots who played pure, beautiful, inventive football beneath the Lisbon sun.

So it comes to pass that Rangers, however you perceive that club, will arrive at Celtic Park on the anniversary of Jock’s passing. Some among their followers have sought to malign his name in a morally repugnant manner. We shall rise above that and hopefully watch the club Jock loved, the club he did so much for, do their talking on the pitch. It would be a fitting tribute to the great man if Celtic were to win in convincing fashion and to do so playing the sort of football he would want to see. He once said…

"Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field." 

I hope Celtic win on Saturday and win in style. I hope they do it playing ‘pure, beautiful, inventive football.’ I hope they set out to demonstrate to their opponents as Jock’s side did 50 years ago that Celtic are aiming for nothing less than domination of Scottish football.

So on Saturday Celtic, win for the fans, win it for the club, win it for the points but most of all win it for Jock.


  1. When he arrived in 1965, Celtic had won nothing of note since 1957. Even that year, they finished 8th in the league. (Just think about that.) The seeds were already there: McGrory had taken the team to the ECWC semi-final in 1964. Jock moulded them into a winning and stylish team and did so by hardly buying any players. McBride, Wallace, Callaghan and Hood all came in over 4 seasons. Jock used only 33 players in the achievement of 9-in-a-row. Ronny Deila used 37 players in 2015-16 alone! Rangers by contrast used 87 players in their nine in a row. I was 4 when Jock won the cup in 1965 and 17 when he left Celtic. All I had ever known was success and it was all down to Jock Stein.

  2. Excellent article on BIG JOCK. So wise and a father figure to our club and so missed. Legend ☘