CELTIC legend Jock Stein was born on this day in Burnbank, South Lanarksire – 101 years ago.
CQN has been celebrating the birth of a Hoops great who transformed the entire football club when he arrived as manager in March 1965.
Jim Craig, John Clark, Willie Wallace and Bobby Lennox, four of the existing players who made history in the Portuguese capital on May 25 1967, gave their views on Jock Stein to author Alex Gordon for his book, ‘Lisbon Lions: The 40th Anniversary Celebration’, which was published in 2007.
Here are their memories. Please enjoy…
“AS we were all aware, Big Jock was the possessor of a fairly ferocious temperament. He could let fly with the best of them if he wasn’t happy with what you were contributing or what he was witnessing. I recall one game when I was on the substitutes’ bench and sitting directly behind Big Jock in the dug-out.
“It would be fair to say he wasn’t too enamoured with what was going on out on the pitch. In fact, he was going ballistic. He was shouting and yelling at everyone and, clearly, it was going to be an interesting half-time tactics talk.
“I sat there and thought: ‘Thank God I’m not going to be on the receiving end of a Big Jock rant.’
“It was goalless at the interval and the manager couldn’t wait to get into the dressing room. John Fitzsimmons, the club doctor, came in, too, as he always did. There would be the usual knock or two for him to work on.
“Not this day, though. Jock simply turned to him and ordered him out. The doctor hesitated and Jock, by this time working up a good head of steam, roared: ‘Get out!’ I didn’t realise our club doctor could move so fast!
THOU SHALT NOT PASS…Jim Craig launches into a tackle on Inter Milan striker Renato Capellini.
“What Jock had to say to the players was going to be done in private. The players were all lined up in numerical order: No.1 goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson; No.2 the right-back and so on. Jock looked at Ronnie: ‘Call yourself a goalkeeper?’
“Then he moved onto the right-back. ‘What on earth are you playing at?’ Left-back: ‘Did you just take up football today?’ He went right through the line-up, pulling their performances apart.
“I sat there in the background with my cup of tea, minding my own business. Jock finished with whoever was playing outside-left that day. Then there was a silence. A minute passed and I was aware he was looking at me.
“There is just so long you can keep your head down and avoid eye contact. Slowly, I looked up and wondered what withering blast was coming my way.
“‘And you, Cairney,’ he said, ‘just how bad are you that you can’t even get in this team!'”
WATCHFUL EYE…John Clarks keeps a close with on Inter Milan dangerman Sandro Mazzola.
“I got to know Big Jock a lot better when he put me on the coaching staff in 1974. We used to travel up and down Britain, taking in all sorts of games.
“I remember realising just how famous he was one night when we were travelling to Anfield to watch Liverpool in action. Big Jock was driving and we were running a bit late.
“Anyway, he jumped a red light. There was no chance of an accident or anything like that, we could see all a round us, and he took a wee chance. Suddenly, the sirens were going behind us and a motorcycle cop rode up beside us and motioned us into the side.
“This big English inspector appeared, looked in and said matter-of-factly: ‘Mr. Stein, how good to see you. Down for the game?’
“‘Aye,’ said Big Jock and, with that, the inspector called over the motorcycle cop and told him to give us an escort right to the front door at Anfield.
“Only Big Jock could have swung that. It was just another illustration of how famous the Big Man was. Everyone knew him and his high profile never did Celtic any harm.”
TITANIC TUSSLE…Willie Walllace battles with an Inter Milan opponent for possession.
“Big Jock knew a thing or two about a good player – he bought me, didn’t he! We may have had a few run-ins during our time, but I always respected him.
“Funnily enough, I knew the Celtic trainer Neilly Mochan fairly well even before I joined from Hearts. I used to pick up Neilly’s brother Denis in Falkirk on our way through to Stenhousemuir when we were both at Ochilview. So, I knew a few of the stories that were going around Celtic at the time.
“That was before Big Jock’s arrival, of course, and everything changed when he took over. Naturally, I was delighted to sign for the club. As you may expect, I was fairly pleased with myself at being rated by the Celtic manager.
“Coaches seemed to be set in their ways back then, but Big Jock always believed in giving you some freedom to express yourself. His tactics were normally spot on and he had the honours to prove it.
“He also had the ability to make you feel super-confident. It got to the stage you didn’t expect to lose – and, of course, we didn’t lose many.”
WALLOP…Bobby Lennox thumps the ball goalwards as Inter Milan defender Giacinto Fachetti attempts a block.
“I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad when I heard the news that Big Jock was coming back to Celtic.
“I was having a run in the first team at the time and, of course, a new manager could have completely different ideas from the bloke who was in the dug-out before him.
“I needn’t have worried, Big Jock worked wonders with me. I had always played as a schoolkid up beside the centre-forward, but Celtic started fielding me on the wings. I did as I was told, of course, and contributed as much as I could to the cause. “But it was Jock who brought me inside and everything took off after that.
“I could never thank him enough.”