WIM JANSEN was hardly given a rousing welcome reception when he was unveiled as Celtic’s new boss at Parkhead in July 1997.
Author Alex Gordon, who has written fifteen tribute books, including ’50 Flags Plus One’, recalls the day when the Dutchman was announced as Tommy Burns’ successor exactly 26 years ago.
Jansen, of course, had been involved with Sanfrecce Hiroshima shortly before arriving in Glasgow. He could even be seen as a trailblazer for Ange Postecoglou who arrived from Yokahama F Marinos in June 2021.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Alex, a former Sunday Mail sports editor, looks back at an interesting day in the east end of Glasgow:
WILHEMUS MARUNUS ANTHONIUS – better known as Wim – Jansen was introduced to the nation’s press and one Celtic official, blessed with misplaced humour, asked the assembled corps: “Do you know the identity of this man?”
One hapless scribe was convinced the individual being presented to the media was former Portugal international manager Artur Jorge.
Evidently, the newspaperman had no inkling that Jorge’s most famous trademark was his walrus-like moustache which dominated his features. Jansen, on the other hand, was clean-shaven as had been witnessed by millions in his many appearances for Feyenoord as a ball-winning, industrious midfielder and also his two World Cup Final outings with Holland against host nations West Germany in 1974 and Argentina four years later.
His most distinguishing feature was his explosion of unruly curls that gave him the look of a bumbling, confused Chief Librarian forever looking for a long-lost pen. The national scribes were eager to discover more about the new and, to more than a few, “anonymous” Celtic Head Coach.
SMILES BETTER…Wim Jansen and Fergus McCann on the day of the Dutchman’s unveiling.
Investigations would determine he had a first-class playing pedigree with Feyenoord – where he won a European Cup medal in 1970 against Celtic – two spells at Ajax and a fifty-six game sojourn with Washington Diplomats.
He had also won sixty-five caps for an excellent Holland side while his management travels took him back to his Rotterdam roots with Feyenoord, Belgium with SK Lokeren, Saudi Arabia as assistant coach to fellow-Dutchman Wim van Hanagem at the international team and Japan as manager of Sanfrecce Hiroshima for a one-season stint in 1995/96.
It also emerged that Johan Cruyff had taken the trouble to contact Celtic to congratulate them on their choice of Head Coach. Holland’s greatest-ever player once admitted Jansen was one of only four people in the world it was worth listening to while discussing football. Jansen did not strike an imposing figure and it was clear during interviews he was far removed from a braggart and had no intention of unduly enhancing his qualities as a coach by talking himself up to exalted levels.
He was there to do a job to the best of his ability and be judged where it mattered most – on the football pitch.
However, he hardly had time to take his first training session when a national newspaper dug out a story about his time in Japan. The headline was less than complimentary. It read, ‘THE WORST THING TO HIT HIROSHIMA SINCE THE ATOM BOMB!’
IT TAKES TWO…Davie Hay and Wim Jansen in discussion.
Davie Hay, who was now combining the role as Assistant General Manager with the duties of Chief Scout, recalled: “Of course, the article was offensive and, clearly, wasn’t designed to do Wim any favours in a new job in a new country. However, if it bothered him, I failed to detect it. He simply got on with the task of putting together a football team. And I use the word ‘team’ accurately.
“We weren’t talking about reshaping a squad. Celtic needed tried-and-tested professionals who could go straight into the top side and hit the ground running. Nothing was going to deflect Wim from that and I have to say I admired his single-minded attitude.
“In fact, I liked him as a person, too, and that always helps when you are dealing with people on a daily basis.”
Murdo MacLeod, the powerful midfielder who spent nine years at the club, had recently returned as reserve team coach, but was quickly appointed as Jansen’s assistant. The Dutchman insisted on his No.2 being someone with knowledge of the Scottish game.
MacLeod had managed Dumbarton and Partick Thistle and, with the exception of three years at Borussia Dortmund after leaving Parkhead in 1987, had spent his entire career in Scotland.
JUST CHAMPION…Henrik Larsson and Wim Jansen celebrate Celtic’s first title triumph in a decade.
He was in the right age group – thirty-eight years old – and ambitious to make his mark on the coaching side of the game. He ideally suited Fergus McCann’s model. Two months later, Eric Black quit his job with the Scottish Football Association to become Football Development Manager, signing a five-year deal.
“Celtic had a new team off the park while assembling a new one on it,” said Hay. “A fresh campaign was coming up fast and we all realised it was such an important one with Rangers the bookies’ favourites to win their tenth successive title.
“That was unthinkable. So, we wasted no time in the transfer market. Wim, of course, wanted Henrik Larsson and, thankfully, we got him from Feyenoord eventually. However, it must be admitted that a lot of that team which was so hastily put together was down to Tommy Burns.
“He had identified players the previous season, so we knew who we were looking for. I had scouted them, knew the transfer prices and wages required, so, thanks to Tommy, we had a head start. And, in saying that, I am not taking anything away from Wim who then had to find a system and gel their talents together.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Wim, with the early assistance of Hay and the application of MacLeod, halted Rangers’ bid for 10 in a row.
So much for being “the worst thing to hit Hiroshima since the Atomic Bomb”.
Unfortunately, Wim passed away in January 2022 at the age of 75. Celtic fans will be forever thankful for what he gifted their club in a massively eventful season.