But of course he was mortal

Stein Herrera half time
Caption this, Stein and Herrera at half time in Lisbon.

“John, you’re immortal”, but of course he was mortal. Bill Shankly’s words from 1967 recorded the moment Jock Stein went from being merely a successful football manager into the greatest icon the Scottish game will ever have, but 30 years ago today, Jock’s mortality came as a shock to the world. A massive heart-attack, while managing Scotland at a World Cup qualifier at Ninian Park, Cardiff, ended the story of Jock Stein, aged 62.

He was 29 before he arrived at Celtic Park as a player after a career with Albion Rovers and Llanelli Town. By all accounts he was a decent central defender and a more than decent leader on the park. He quickly became vice-captain, then captain, and in 1954 led Celtic to their first double in 40 years, and their first league title in 16 years. Injury forced him out of the game as a 33-year-old. Celtic gave him a job coaching the reserve team, where he would work with some future Lisbon Lions.

In 1961, a year after becoming Dunfermline manager, he led them to their first Scottish Cup, beating Celtic in the final. In four years he transformed Dunfermline from the bottom of the table team he inherited, into a team who recorded astonishing victories in European football.

A meritocratic year at Hibernian then followed, at least part of which he spent discussing his future with Celtic chairman, Bob Kelly, before Kelly made one of the most inspired decisions in sport and offered Jock the Celtic manager’s job.

The rest, is literally history. In 13 years he took 10 league titles, winning all of his first nine. In his first five seasons he only lost three of 15 domestic trophies, but most important of all, in May 1967, his Celtic team became the first British club to reach, and then win, a European Cup final.

That European Cup win was enough in itself, but the manner of the win would mean Stein’s legend grew far wider than it otherwise would. Opponents Inter Milan were the most dominant team in the game. They were going for their third European Cup in four years and their fourth Italian title in five.

Celtic blew them away. It was the most comprehensive single goal victory in sport. The Italians were exhausted at the end, having defended 43 attempts at goal, seldom managing to cross the halfway line. The underdogs had triumphed, Celtic were instantly respected and adored across Europe, while Stein was viewed as having almost mystical powers.

So what did he really achieve? The Celtic you know today would be unrecognisable without him. Had he stayed at Hibs, they could be a bigger club than Celtic today. Our decades in the wilderness, which started in the 1920s, would have continued into the 70s and who knows thereafter. His gift to you, is Celtic. That’s why his statue is outside the ground.

It wasn’t all sweetness and light. Stein was a hard authoritarian, consistent with the style of the time. Football also caught up with him. Those first five years at Celtic, five league titles, five League Cups, two Scottish Cups, two European Cup finals, European semi-finalists a remarkable three times, were imperious, but some lights went out after losing to Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup final.

After a fifth place finish in 1978 Celtic decided to sack Jock, offering him a position on the board, which he initially accepted but only later realised his responsibilities would be limited to Celtic Pools.

Football is a results business and looking back, the decision to sack The Big Man in 1978, should not be regarded as controversial. I certainly remember many Celtic fans of the era questioning his decisions, but the way the termination was handled was shoddy. Stein had lost his mentor, then Sir Robert Kelly, seven years earlier, while the pick of his second team, Hay, Macari and Dalglish, were sold for huge fees which were never invested in the squad. Or the stadium, training facilities or anything else an aspiring football club would invest in.

He grabbed the first offer out of Kerrydale St, but only 44 days later couldn’t wait to leave Leeds United to take up the Scotland job, where he returned to his earlier form. That night in Cardiff, Scotland stood on the verge of qualification for their fourth successive World Cup, two of which were under Stein.

The nation watched him being carried into the Ninian Park tunnel live on television. Even then, no one expected him to die.  We thought Jock was immortal.


Foundation call: Walfrid and Directors’ Box hospitality, thanks to Intelligent Car Leasing, ebay auction here. More on this tomorrow.

SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Apologies for server problems over the last couple of days, I’m on it….

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  1. Taurangabhoy:



    I support the same team, the same club, but not the same fiscal policy that denudes our club, and all her supporters, whether they choose to be blind to it or not, of the hope for ambition beyond a result in a one horse race.

  2. thomthethim for Oscar OK on

    A measure of how much or how little we talk about them on here, will be numbers of posters who will go and watch them against us next year, when they stink the place out.



    We will read all the spurious reasons for turning up, like, ” I just support the Celtic”.



    The only people who can halt the Lie are Scottish Football supporters.



    Tell our clubs that we will not tolerate them any longer.



    Do not attend any SFA sponsored games.



    Do not support the the SFA’s team….they do not represent Scotland, merely the rotten cabal that oversees the game.



    Of course, none of that will happen.



    Too many long for the taste of poison, which contaminates all who partake.

  3. TTT,


    This place is full of old firm supporters, in fact we have one who travelled to the UK for only one game last season and has the neck to call out any one who expresses their concerns about the direction the Plc executive are dragging our club.

  4. Support a regime that has spectacularly failed at the earliest of hurdles, as the seeded team, in a seeded competition, and bleats lyrical in response to valid criticisms’…. And have individuals proclaim that as acceptable, laudable even, we come from different perspectives.



    Here we go 10 in a row, and if the rest of Europe, and the world for that matter, could raise a toss, it would be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s biggest yawn.

  5. its my wee da’s 19th anniversary today 9/11 before it was famous, can anyone help me to find a kind of eulogy i posted here to him wee hours one drunken morning a year or so ago my youngest wants to see it

  6. West End of East End on

    Really enjoyed reading the blog over the last day/night on all the old Celtic stories, Jock Stein memories. Back to normality today, a good job they didn’t have social media in the early 60’s.



    Pubs must be shut in the Southern Hemisphere….

  7. Kitalba Big Jock did it for a while , with no money and an abundance of local talent. We were in the wilderness for the next three decades then Saint Martin took us to the Europa League final. Great days but still second tier. Where we are now, WGS had us boringly punching above our weight. The bottom team in the EPL gets more revenue than us. They don’t get European football of any description. No financially cheatin Huns to challenge us doesn’t make it a one horse league. Do the maths. Any one of the other eleven can take us to the wire if they consistently beat the same opposition. Aberdeen or Hearts could do this regardless of the money, it is a numbers game you know it. This is how it is as long as we are playing in Scotland. We can dream of CL and we should have had enough to take on Malmo but that’s cup games for ye. This time next year CL striker, maybes. Hail Hail.

  8. Cosy Corner Bhoy on

    There was a wee shit called Ally ,who thought he was everyone’s pally ,though he tried his best,he still shat in the nest, now even they know he’s a wally! Canny do the para thingies!

  9. Facts from fifeshire.



    Since the split was introduced 15 years ago, only two Celtic managers have beaten Aberdeen in all 4 league games in a season.




  10. Hello again all you young rebels.



    What a great couple of days reading all the big Jock posts and all the


    harmony it engendered on the blog, what a powerful force we are


    when we all do the huddle together, as i’ve said on here many a time


    Wha’s like us?


    My own memories of the big mhan coming back to Celtic actually start


    before he arrived, it was the early sixties and we were really in the


    doldrums so much so that the Celtic supporters association were


    calling for a boycott before a midweek game, now my auld memory


    thinks it was Falkirk maybe some of you older ghuys could help me out


    but the bhoys won after a bit of a struggle 3-1.


    Being a very young lad and just starting to spread my wings so to speak


    i said to my wee da.


    ” Whit dae you think da, should i go tae the game the night cause the CSA


    think we should boycott it ?


    ” Listen son you support your team good or bad never mind what anybody


    else tells ye, they might have the right reasons but there goin the wrang way


    aboot it.


    O.K da, that was all i needed , apart from the money to get in that is, but as


    usual the auld yin had a stash of empty screwtaps in the coal bunker when


    they were cashed in that was my entrance money.


    Off i went sprinting through hunland with my scarf up my jumper until i


    reached the Broomielaw then i knew it was a bit safer to let the world know


    i was a proud Celtic supporter ( sad old country )


    At the start of the game Celtic park was deserted, i think eventually about


    6 or 7000 turned up and i remember standing there thinking, should i have


    boycotted like all the rest? but no i was a die hard in my young mind and i


    suppose that never leaves you.


    When i got home my da said .


    ” How did it go son?


    ” Well da it’s no the same without the supporters but we won anyhow ”


    ” Don’t worry about it son because you were there to support them when


    they needed you and anyway Celtic will always have a hero to come through


    when we need him.


    how right he was.


    God bless big Jock and the Celtic family.


    H.H Mick

  11. Apricale on 11th September 2015 12:52 pm



    A Bear with some quantum mechanics



    Said the ‘Gers second coming caused panics



    But like Schrodinger’s moggy



    His logic was soggy



    The Huns still alive are Germanics


    – See more at: http://www.celticquicknews.co.uk/but-of-course-he-was-mortal/comment-page-10/#comments




    I’m sure this is clever if I only undestood it.



    Searches for Schrodinger’s cat on Google!

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