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. God Bless the big man. I was at the game the night he passed. Saw him start to fall…. terrible, just terrible.



    His ultimate triumph was the final nail in deidco’s coffin.


    David Murray hammered it in by trying to emulate him with other people’s money.



    RIP Jock Stein.

  2. Jock is and always will be a legend.



    “while the pick of his second team, Hay, Macari and Dalglish, were sold for huge fees which were never invested in the squad.”



    Some things never change eh!

  3. beatbhoy @1233







    bk @1243



    belter! especially going with the facial expression :))




  4. Phyllis Dietrichson on

    Paul67 – you’ve repeated a popular misconception. Jock did not die from his heart attack – there were plenty of medical facilities in the ground to treat this.



    Jock drowned.

  5. THE EXILED TIM on 10TH SEPTEMBER 2015 12:33 PM


    Afternoon Timland from a hot hun free mountain valley.










    DeJa vu





    ” 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.”



    This will be shocking news to all the “Nouveau Celtic fans”on here.You know the ones who think that everything at Celtic is the worst its ever been.God help us if they had to live through the late 50s,early 60s,never mind the shambles that was Celtic during the Huns bought 9 in a row.


    No investment in the stadium,team,in fact nothing but misery for the fans.








    – See more at: http://www.celticquicknews.co.uk/but-of-course-he-was-mortal/#sthash.3KA1RB64.dpuf

  6. Big Jock to Herrera:



    “Right! Me. You. Square go. Now! Come ahead!”



    Herrera (shaking): “Que?”



    …before running off.




  7. Today is a most poignant anniversary for us Celtic fans. Big Jock knew how to mould a very talented group of players into the best team in Europe. Yet he was an ordinary man, with weaknesses like the rest of us. He acknowledged these and then got on with it.


    He never asked players to do things beyond their abilities but woe betide them if they didn’t give of their best. And he proved this with lesser sides before and after his time at Celtic.


    From my 8th year until my 18th, Celtic were one of the best teams in the world. Fantastic memories.


    Thank you, Mr Stein.

  8. The 9 in a row years were bloody marvellous for us auld gits who were fortunate enough to witness them first hand.



    A golden era for the club which will, sadly, never be repeated.



    Or will it?



    Thank you Jock.




  9. foghorn leghorn, ha! That’ll be it.



    beatbhoy, why did I write “Bob”? Oh dear. Corrected, thanks.



    GlassTwoThirdsFull, aye, indeed.



    BlantyreKev, whitedoghunch, thanks.


    TALLYBHOY on 10TH SEPTEMBER 2015 12:19 PM






    Moved there in 1962 from GREENock.




    To a wee genteel toon called Troon.






    Then they sent me to a Catholic secondary school in Kilwinning in 1966.



    Never been the same since.







    Haha,I’ll betcha the last verse of IF has stuck with you ever since!

  11. 1969-an Inter Milan official phones Big Jock


    “we want to pay £100,000 for Jimmy Johnstone…”


    Big Jock…”and which game would you like him for…..”

  12. TheOriginalSadiesBhoy on

    Monaghan 1900



    You’re a gentleman and a scholar! Just back home from being “aff oot” and can report that I was able to get onto CQN without being assailed by adverts and redirected to an app store.



    Many thanks for your advice. Can You tell me if I should keep Javascript permanently switched off?

  13. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    A friend of mine sums up Jock to a tee.



    ” He just spoke with so much common sense.”



    Kojo used to speak of ” uncommon sense.”





    Gone from these pages,but not forgotten.

  14. Big Jock had no surprise tactical plan for Inter in the final. Ive got an evening times from the day before and he openly tells what the Celtic approach will be. ” We will attack from the start and keep attacking and then attack some more!!”.


    Another interesting snippet from the same paper . Three Glasgow City councillors were refused permission to travel to Lisbon to support Celtic.

  15. Thank you, Jock Stein.


    You helped to made the first nine years of my life great and to expect that it would always be that way.


    Just a great man.



    By the way MickTT, did you realise you managed to get “Big Jock” and “know” in 2 consecutive lines of your post at 12.17?



    Ach anyway, who cares who or what his shadow eclipses, I’m more interested in the main show. And I’ll be there.

  16. BMCUW



    Yes, very apt son!






    Those years in Kilwinning helped to mould me in later life!



    Incredible but true!




  17. lennon's passion on

    WEEMINGER on 10TH SEPTEMBER 2015 12:45 PM



    Watched champions league football under Lennon. How many times has DEILA the Dud took us there.

  18. I am sure I’ve said it before – but I will say it again for the benefit of the ‘Newbies’ (the younger among our Support who think they’ve suffered some ‘dark’ days).



    The ’54 League and Cup Double was done just before I first went to school. Little did I know then that (apart from the 7-1 League Cup Triumph) I would spend my entire schoolboy life never seeing the Celtic win a League Title or a Scottish Cup.



    So much for my formative life! And then Jock arrived – like the Rise of the Holy Roman Empire sweeping all before him. What wonderful trophy-laden years – the Lions, attacking football – fantastic times to be a Tim!



    Made me appreciate in later years that the Club was always worth fighting for – worth belonging to and why I continue to support it.



    God Bless you Mr. Stein – it was a pleasure to have watched you and your Teams in action and a privilege to have met you and shook your hand.




  19. .



    As the Only Celtic Supporter at My Primary then Secondary School..



    When l eventually Found out That Big Jock had like Me made a Decision to Love Celtic FC on his Own terms..and for Solely Football reasons..



    It made all they (And there were a Few) Names l was Called seem Not so Bad..



    l could read about the Man forever..




  20. Possibly a little-known fact.



    Big Jock was appointed manager of Dunfermline on the 13th March 1960, aged 37.



    Six days later he took charge of his first competitve match. A league match at home.



    The opponents?



    Celtic, of course.



    Dunfermline won 3-2.




  21. The Battered Bunnet on

    The commonly accepted analysis of the 1970 European Cup Final is that Stein underestimated or otherwise wholly misjudged the ability of the Feyenoord team.



    Of those involved, only Jimmy Johnstone is on record as placing the blame on the players. Certainly Stein’s approach to the game in the days and weeks preceding it was a complete contrast to the detail-sweat of his first Final in ’67.



    I wonder if things might have played out differently 2 years later when we were penalty kicks v Inter away from a second final against Dutch opposition; reigning European Champions Ajax this time.



    That Ajax team is considered to be one of the finest club teams ever assembled, winning 3 European Cups in succession, and losing the Final in 69, while of course Feyenoord had won it in 1970. 5 years in succession from 1969 Dutch sides contested the Final, winning it 4 times. A Feyenoord/Ajax select narrowly lost the 1974 World Cup.



    It would have been interesting to see how Stein’s methods had evolved to take into account the (by now established) Total Football style of the Dutch.



    What would he have come up with? Notwithstanding that in 1971 his Celtic team had been beaten by Ajax in the quarter finals.



    Team v Inter, 1972:


    Williams; Craig, McCluskey, Murdoch, McNeill, Connelly, Johnstone, Dalglish (Deans 61), Macari, Callaghan, Lennox. Substitutes: Connaghan, Quinn

  22. My first memory of Jock Stein was an unhappy one.



    I remember walking back from Hampden across the Clyde bridge from Richmond Park to Glasgow Green after the Eddie Connachan Cup Final which was Stein ‘s notice of arrival.



    The Dunfermline keeper broke our hearts that night leading my dad to tell me to watch out for supporters jumping into the river.



    Little did I know that just a few short years later Big Jock would start to make it up to me and the Celtic support in spades.



    What a time to be a supporter.

  23. Jock stein.may you rest in peace.


    Watched that game against Wales on t.v.


    Sad sad night that was.


    Thank you big man.





    The two late goals v Ajax killed our chances. Fine margins.

  25. 50 shades of green on




    In a rather loud wos accent.



    Not only r you no getting that bench,your no getting that bloody cup either ya hear me . It’s glesga bound the night. Now just, (unfortunately his voice gets to high to make out the rest of it ).



    At least he was right.



    H.H big man

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