“AS we were all aware, Big Jock was the possessor of a fairly ferocious temperament. He could let fly with the best of them if he wasn’t happy with what you were contributing or what he was witnessing. I recall one game when I was on the substitutes’ bench and sitting directly behind Big Jock in the dug-out.
“It would be fair to say he wasn’t too enamoured with what was going on out on the pitch. In fact, he was going ballistic. He was shouting and yelling at everyone and, clearly, it was going to be an interesting half-time tactics talk. I sat there and thought: “Thank God I’m not going to be on the receiving end of a Big Jock rant.”
“It was goalless at half-time and the manager couldn’t wait to get into the dressing room. John Fitzsimmons, the club doctor, came in, too, as he always did. There would be the usual knock or two for him to work on. Not this day, though. Jock simply turned to him and ordered him out. The doctor hesitated and Jock, by this time working up a good head of steam, roared: “Get out!” I didn’t realise our club doctor could move so fast!
“What Jock had to say to the players was going to be done in private. The players were all lined up in numerical order: No.1 goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson; No.2 the right-back and so on. Jock looked at Ronnie: “Call yourself a goalkeeper?” Then he moved onto the right-back. “What on earth are you playing at?” Left-back: “Did you just take up football today?” He went right through the line-up, pulling their performances apart.
“I sat there in the background with my cup of tea, minding my own business. Jock finished with whoever was playing outside-left that day. Then there was a silence. A minute passed and I was aware he was looking at me. There is just so long you can keep your head down and avoid eye contact. Slowly, I looked up and wondered what withering blast was coming my way.
“And you, Cairney,” he said, “just how bad are you that you can’t even get in this team!””
*The legend of Jock Stein…read HERE.
*McNeill Talking Stein…read HERE.
*How Jock Beat Off Barcelona…read HERE
* Jim Craig was speaking to Alex Gordon in 2007 for his best-selling book ‘Lisbons Lions: The 40th Anniversary’ – Alex’s new book ‘That Season in Paradise – Ten Months of Celtic Heaven’ is out now on CQN Books and is available from Celtic Stores and online from www.cqnbookstore.com