ONLY three managers in the illustrious history of Celtic have achieved the exceptional feat of a domestic clean sweep of silverware – Jock Stein, Martin O’Neill and Brendan Rodgers.
Big Jock won the league title, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup in season 1966/67 – where he threw in a European Cup for good measure – and repeated the domestic accomplishment in 1968/69.
O’Neill matched the legendary Stein’s collection after taking over in 2000/01 and it was another 16 years before Rodgers added his name to the list with his ‘Invincibles’ campaign in 2016/17.
Over the next three weeks, CQN will be publishing EXCLUSIVE extracts from Alex Gordon’s production, ‘CELTIC: The History Bhoys’, which features the extraordinary and groundbreaking seasons of these three iconic leaders of the Parkhead club.
Today, in Part One of our fascinating series of these landmark times in the annals of fame at a momentous football club, we kick off with the arrival of Jock Stein in March 1965.
WITH extreme courtesy, Jock Stein stepped aside and pushed open the door of the dressing room to allow the elegantly-dressed individual in the camel-haired coat, smart dark suit and shiny black brogues to pass through as he made his exit.
Big Jock then made sure the door was shut tight before he turned to the assembly of footballers preparing for kick-off.
He motioned with his right hand, the thumb protruding, over his shoulder and instructed them: “Right, you can forget everything he has just told you. You don’t listen to the likes of him.”
The gentleman on the receiving end of the not-so-subtle putdown was Celtic chairman Robert Kelly, who would later be knighted for his services to football.
Broomfield Park, the rundown, ramshackle premises of Airdrie, on a grey Wednesday evening in March 1965, was the unlikely setting for a football legend to be born.
THE HISTORY-MAKER…Jock Stein with the European Cup in 1967.
Jock Stein had just taken charge of the Parkhead side, replacing the man who is still the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, Jimmy McGrory.
Bertie Auld was stripped and ready for action that evening and recalled: “Jock was immediately telling us all we would do it his way, he was the boss and no-one else.
“Robert Kelly was prone to visiting dressing rooms before games and delivering a sermon to the players. Quite rightly, he did not like unsporting behaviour from anyone wearing green-and-white hoops. ‘That’s not the Celtic way,’ he would stress.
“And a lot of the players from that era knew if they got involved in aggressive, but fair, tackles, there was every chance they would be out of the team for the following match.
“I think Kelly believed it was okay for Celtic players to have lumps kicked out of them and booted all over the park without even an attempt at retaliation.
“The chairman was almost puritanical in the manner he viewed the game. Yes, we all accepted what he was saying, but we had a job to do for the team and you weren’t going to win too many games if you don’t have the ball. And you won’t get the ball if you don’t win your challenges.
“Sadly, that was often the case back then. And then Big Jock arrived and everything changed in an instant.
“Jimmy McGrory was a lovely man, but he was actually too nice to be a football manager. The players knew he didn’t pick the team.
“He would hand in his selection at the board meeting every Thursday night at Parkhead and if the chairman didn’t agree with his line-up, he simply changed it.
“Jimmy McGrory would then discover his team when it was pinned to the notice board. Remember, this is the Celtic manager we are talking about.
“It was clear from day one, though, Big Jock wouldn’t stand for any meddling from the chairman or any of the directors.
“He was the manager of the team and his word was law. You crossed Jock and you paid a heavy price, trust me. I don’t think it was purely coincidence we started winning games and trophies again following his return!”
Bertie Auld, now a sprightly 79 year old, must have impressed his new boss that frosty, crisp late winter’s evening under the dull lights at the home of Airdrie. Celtic trounced their opponents 6-0 and Auld, playing wide on the left wing, struck five of them, two from penalty-kicks. John Hughes claimed the other as Jock Stein signalled his intentions right from the start.
* TOMORROW: The Stein Era really takes off as the Celtic giant awakes from its slumber.