|The Bhoy in the Picture - Jock Stein|
|The Bhoy in the Picture - Jock Stein|
|Written by St Anthony|
|Monday, 25 January 2010 13:59|
The child lay in his bed and said his prayers ; ‘God bless Mum, God bless Dad‘…and his Father mischievously whispered into his son’s ear ; ‘And God bless Jock Stein’.|
Jimmy Johnstone may have been voted the greatest ever Celt but the most beloved individual in the eyes of the fans has to be the great Jock Stein. No individual has shaped Celtic’s destiny more in the 122 years of the club’s existence and to this day the memory of Jock Stein and his achievements are rightly cherished by the Celtic supporters.
When the big man took over in 1965 Celtic were a shambles on and off the park and had a ’stadium’ in a state of disrepair. In the next 13 years he went on to lift 10 league titles, 8 Scottish Cups, 6 League Cups and a certain European trophy which you may have heard of and helped the club finance the building of a great new stand which helped make the Parkhead atmosphere one of the best in Europe.
Jock Stein often used the phrase ‘full control’ in interviews and there is no doubt this is what he had at Parkhead. In his early days as manager, Celtic chairman Robert Kelly would come in the dressing room pre-match before an Old Firm game to exhort the Celtic players to play fairly and to avoid any trouble on the field. Each player would respectfully nod to their chairman, including Stein, and when the dressing room door shut Stein would tell them to forget about that ‘crap’ and instruct his team to take no prisoners during the ensuing 90 minutes. Celtic would no longer ‘fight’ Rangers with one arm tied behind their back.
I’ve heard several ex Celts of the period state that Stein was ruthless and that the players could often dislike him intensely. Tough. Stein was there to achieve results and his strong management led to unparallel success. If some shrinking violets were upset along the way then that’s life. Oh that we had such strong management with the current squad on recent occasions.
However, he had a gentle side also. Tommy Burns tells of the time he arrived for training as a 17 year old on a particularly rainy day, ‘like a drowned rat’. When his manager asked where his raincoat was, Tommy informed him that he was on £15 per week and could not afford one. The next wage packet Tommy received had an extra £30 in it with the message -’Get yourself a decent coat’. It’s not clear if Stein personally gave the money but he would have authorised that extra payment at least.
People often mention his devilish sense of humour. On arriving at an airport he was approached by a foreign journalist who asked, ‘Are you Stein ?’ (pronounced Stey-in) to which the big man replied, ‘Naw, I’m going back on Thursday !’ In the recent excellent STV series, ‘The Football Years, Rodger Baillie told of Stein in Lisbon looking for a hat to avoid the heat in May 1967. He tried one on which was clearly too small and quipped, ‘It would have fitted me okay this time last year’. In September 1972 after a resounding 3-1 win over Rangers at Hampden, an interviewer said what a great result that was and Jock replied, ‘Aye…for Rangers.’
He cared deeply for the Celtic fans. In 1965 it has to be said that we did not have a good reputation and he took it upon himself to educate and encourage good behaviour amongst the fans and made full use of the new medium of the Celtic View to get his point across. Celtic fans’ behaviour then improved tremendously, but when standards sometimes slipped it was not unknown for him to go into the crowd and chastise them in person. In 1972 when Celtic fans were travelling to a game in Dundee, they were caught in a heavy snow storm around Perth. The match was postponed and the Police were turning the buses back and in the blizzard Stein’s familiar bulky figure could be seen assisting the Police and instructing the buses to turn back for their safety.
In late 1971 my friend’s Father was working in the main stand which had recently opened and had encountered problems and was in need of urgent repairs. A squad of 10 workmen (6 Celtic, 4 Rangers) were entrusted with the repair work. Each day Jock Stein would visit them to check their progress and enjoy some banter with the workers. As New Year approached, the prospect of the traditional Celtic-Rangers fixture came into conversation. One day a prominent Celtic director appeared and generously distributed a complimentary ground ticket to each of the workers for their hard work. Unfortunately for the Rangers fans these tickets were for the Celtic end of the ground. They were told brusquely that if they wanted Rangers end tickets then they should contact Ibrox for them. The director departed and Jock arrived shortly after. When he heard the plight of the Rangers workers he shook his head as if he had seen it all before and left them to it. He returned an hour later with four Rangers end tickets to exchange with the workers in what was seen as a wonderful and much appreciated gesture.
As the day of the big game loomed the Celtic workers pressed the big man to reveal the Celtic line up. He answered their question with one of his own :
‘Which player do you think is first on the team sheet when we play Rangers ?’
‘Jinky, because he can unlock the tightest defences…’
‘Big Billy because he’s our captain and leader..’
‘Wee Lennox ‘cos he’s the fastest thing on two feet…’
To stop the men from becoming exasperated Jock explained that Jim Brogan was his first pick. Rangers had a strong physical presence and could easily intimidate opposing teams and he explained that you had to fight fire with fire. Only by playing the likes of Brogan, Hay and Murdoch could the likes of Johnstone, Dalglish, Hood and Lennox be allowed to express themselves and perform. This was a rare insight into big Jocks mind. The irony is that Celtic won the fixture due to a dramatic last minute goal from a certain Jim Brogan. Perhaps Jock really did have the gift of foresight.
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