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DEAL OR NO DEAL? ‘JOCK COULD HAVE TREATED PLAYERS A BIT BETTER,’ REVEALS LEGEND

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CQN’S is continuing its week of celebrations to mark Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld’s 81st birthday at the weekend.

Today, the Celtic legend reveals all about dealing with Jock Stein in pay negotiations – and how he felt the players were not treated fairly.

In another exclusive extract from the Hoops great’s autobiography, ‘A Bhoy called Bertie’, co-authored by Alex Gordon, the iconic personality opens up on interesting times at Parkhead – on and off the pitch. 

JOCK STEIN was a difficult guy to negotiate with when your contract was about to be renewed. Remember, these were the days before the Bosman Ruling. The clubs kept your registration and if you didn’t accept the deal on the table that was just tough luck. If they said you were going nowhere, then you were going nowhere.

Everything was heavily weighed in the club’s favour and Big Jock held all the aces. You would have thought he was dealing with his own money and not Celtic’s. He also knew no-one wanted to leave the club. I was Celtic through and through and so were most , if not all, of my team-mates.

We loved the place, the rapport with the supporters and, generally, just everything that entailed being a player with Celtic Football Club. Jock was aware of all of this and that was why he was on a winner even before anyone asked for a wage hike. My God, I was the guy who took a pay cut to join Celtic such was my desperation to get back to Parkhead. However, I still believe Celtic and Jock could have treated the players a bit better on the financial front.

No-one was looking for a fortune. We just wanted what we thought we were worth and, naturally enough, we heard about extravagant wages being paid by mediocre English clubs who were hardly close to the stature of Celtic or who had anything like our fan base. All this didn’t wash with Jock, though. I thought he might have fought our corner a bit better with the board. He didn’t and I think that was wrong.

In those dark, old days the club could offer you new terms and if you refused to sign then they placed you on the absolute minimum for the year. That could be as little as £250 and if you had a family, house and car then you would have to resign yourself to the fact you weren’t going to eat for the next twelve months! Clubs would send you a new contract by registered mail with May 1 the cut-off date. I know a few players who waited for that letter to arrive and when it didn’t they realised they had been given a free transfer. That’s the way it worked back then.

BERTIE ON THE BALL…Auld in control.

Players, naturally enough, will always inflate their wages and there was talk of Rangers getting £100-per-man when I think we were on £65 at the time. I’m not too sure about the discrepancy, but we always earned more because of our bonus structure and Rangers didn’t get too many bonuses back then! But you had to be in the squad. If you were injured, suspended or out of form, you dropped back to the absolute basic. That was sore.

I recall a day when Jock came into the dressing room to announce we were going to either Bermuda or the Bahamas to play a local select. It was a wee five-day break in the sunshine and he thought it would freshen us up. One of our players, I think it was Jim Brogan, asked: ‘How much are we getting?’ Jock turned round, ‘What do you mean?’

The player replied, ‘Well, presumably the club are getting something for making the trip, so how much are we getting? What’s our cut?’ Jock’s jovial mood changed dramatically. He said instantly, ‘You’re getting nothing – the trip’s off!’ And that was the end of it. We never got on that plane and I think our place was taken by Chelsea. Lucky sods!

I’ve already said I don’t think Jock should have been allowed to leave Celtic back in 1960. We could all see how revolutionary he was in his methods when he was working with the reserves. He was a football man – he wasn’t just going through the motions to pay his mortgage or top up his pension. He continually sought out new ideas, fresh methods, varying tactics. He delved into things in miniscule detail.

He was hungry for knowledge and he took in games the length and breadth of the country as he followed his passion. You would hear him talk to Neilly Mochan after training. ‘There’s a player at Cambuslang Rangers I want to see. They’ve got a game on tonight. I’ll just pop over.’ His dedication was boundless and he expected the same from his players.

Neilly, by the way, could have been a top-class manager in his own right – I am convinced of that. Jock brought him back from Dundee United where he had finished his playing days and he was a smashing guy to have around. He was brilliant in the dressing room before games.

Now I don’t know if he was an unconcious comedian or he knew exactly what he was doing, but he could relieve the tension with some of his remarks. He would say something like, ‘Get out there and let them do it to us before we do it to them!’ We would start to fall about and he would stand there wondering what he had said that was so funny. Fans must have realised we were confident of getting a victory those days when we would emerge from the tunnel still laughing.

THE VISIONARY…Bertie Auld surveys the scene.

Jock, of course, was forced to hang up his boots in January 1957 after a London specialist told him his ankle would never be repaired to the extent that he could return to a sporting pursuit. He was thirty-four-years-old at the time. Celtic obviously saw something in Jock and offered him a scouting position. Bob Kelly even afforded him the accolade that he liked his ‘influence’ around the club and hoped he would learn the managerial side of things from Jimmy McGrory.

Kelly, with what would turn out to be a masterly understatement, said: ‘We hope that will stand him in good stead for the future.’ Stein became manager of the reserve team a few months later and I was in the side that beat Rangers 8-2 over two legs in the final of the Scottish Second X1 Cup. We actually won 5-1 at Ibrox to add to our first leg 3-1 success on our own ground. Over 40,000 fans saw both matches.

Even back then, he had a great eye for detail. He changed a lot of small things. When he came back in 1965, for instance, he got rid of our old training gear – and not before time. The stuff we used consisted of heavy woollen jumpers you would more likely see being worn by trawlermen and baggy and well-worn shorts with the backside hanging out of them. When you arrived for training these garments were lying in a pile in the middle of the dressing room.

I think they were washed about once a year. They were filthy and you were forced to train in them no matter the weather. One day we turned up and there were lightweight modern sweatshirts waiting for us. We rarely, if ever, wore tracksuit bottoms because Jock believed we would run about a bit more in shorts to keep warm if it was cold! Everything was washed regularly, too. Just a wee thing, I suppose, but it underlined that fresh ideas were being put in place at the club that had been stuck in medieval times beforehand.

Another change that underlined Jock’s early days was the removal of the snooker table from the recreation room. We used to meet there before games and have a wee knock-about on the green baize. Jock saw that too many players were standing around with nothing to do while two, or sometimes four, other guys played on the table. Jock introduced table tennis and that meant more of us were involved with the games being played at a ferocious pace. He also reckoned table tennis sharpened up your reflexes. He liked to play, too, but it was always a good idea to let him win!  Again, a small point, but it did show everyone that no detail, however minute, would be overlooked as he sought perfection.

And yet Celtic still allowed this visionary man to quit Parkhead and take over as manager of Dunfermline in March, 1960. I know he agonised over his decision to leave Celtic. He was very friendly with a journalist called John Blair, of the Sunday People. He confided in John and arranged to meet him in Glasgow Green to talk over Dunfermline’s move for him.

John later admitted he told Jock to take it – it was too good an opportunity to turn down. Celtic did little to persuade him to stay and that, obviously, was a mistake of monumental proportions. Six days later he managed the Fifers for the first time and, would you believe, they beat Celtic, of all clubs, 3-2 at East End Park!  Just over a year later Jock came back to haunt Celtic again when he steered unfancied Dunfermline to an astonishing 2-0 Scottish Cup Final replay triumph at Hampden.

EURO MASTER…Bertie Auld and the European Cup – and his autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’.

His stock was high and it looked only a matter of time when he would step up from Dunfermline. Would Celtic, looking as though they were going nowhere, make a move? Yes, he did leave East End Park to a team that wore green and white, but it was to be no homecoming to the east end of Glasgow, of course. Instead, he joined Hibs in April 1964. I know the Hibs players were gutted when he agreed, at last, to return to Celtic in January 1965.

He kept his word and remained in Edinburgh until March when they got a new boss in Bob Shankly, the brother of Jock’s pal Bill, manager of Liverpool. Actually, Celtic almost lost out on Jock because he let it slip to Kelly that he had had an approach from Wolves. Whether or not Jock, who could be as daft as a fox, deliberately imparted that information to activate the Celtic chairman, we’ll never find out. But he did drop it into the conversation and, thankfully, Kelly made his move. Not before time.

At first it was mooted that Sean Fallon would act as joint manager with Jock. It had been thought by many that the Irishman had been groomed as the successor to Jimmy McGrory and he did take charge of the team on numerous occasions. Jock was having absolutely none of that and I mean that as no disrespect to Sean.

It was going to be Jock’s way or no way. He was the main man and he wasn’t going to share the duties on a 50/50 level. As everyone is surely aware, Jock liked a gamble. Kelly might have believed he was bluffing. He might have thought Jock couldn’t possibly knock back his club. There was an impasse for a few days and Jock wouldn’t budge. Eventually, the directors saw sense and a compromise was reached with Sean becoming assistant manager. I recall Jock saying,

‘This is what I have always wanted – a return to Celtic. I’m back where I belong.’

TOMORROW: The ruthless side of Big Jock. Bertie names the players who had to leave Celtic.

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