Wim Jansen was one of the main reasons Celtic did not win a second European Cup. He was in the midfield of the Feyenoord team which overcame Jock Stein’s Celtic in extra time the 1970 final in Milan. He went on the play in two World Cup Finals for Netherlands, losing to host nations Argentina and West Germany on both occasions.
A brilliant player, hard as nails, apparently, he was one of a handful of Dutch players who ranked below the Great Johan Cruyff.
On retirement, he coached at Feyenoord, managed briefly in Belgium, before taking the reins at Feyenoord in 1990. As was the Dutch way at the time, a fall out caused him to leave, eventually moving to Japan. His year there was not successful.
Few of my generation had heard of him the morning he was announced as Celtic manager in 1997. Such was the media back then, we were told he was “the second worst thing to hit Hiroshima” – honestly, that was a newspaper report!
His first league game saw defeat at Easter Road. In his second, a halftime penalty lead at home to Dunfermline was not enough to prevent the Fifers leaving with all three points. Rangers seemed assured of 10-in-a-row, but Wim was only getting started.
Like many of you, I lived through that season. I did not understand how we were able to win the league from such a position and still don’t. We lost our best players going into the campaign and although the incomparable Henrik Larsson arrived from Feyenoord, Wim was not familiar with the bulk of the players who came in.
Gradually results improved, but honestly, the entire campaign was fragile. Each game required enormous effort. A League Cup win meant more than anyone would believe now. A heroic win over Rangers at New Year made us consider the unimaginable may just be possible. Then in April, points were dropped at home to Hibs, who were on their way to being relegated.
Then Dunfermline’s role in that season came into sharp focus again. A win in Fife in the second last game and Celtic were champions after Rangers had lost at home to a last minute Kilmarnock goal the previous day. Simon Donnelly put Celtic ahead but Craig Falconbridge equalised in the closing stages. Was it ever to be Celtic’s time?
I wasn’t there at Dunfermline that day, most of us were watching at home, but we were there in our droves at the final game of the season at home to St Johnstone. Being there when history came home meant so much. In all the great Celtic games I’ve attended, the beating of Barca, Milan and Real Madrid, nothing, NOTHING, matches standing on the slopes of Celtic Park that day.
Our celebrations were cut short, the newspapers the following day reported a fall out, Wim was leaving Celtic after a single glorious season. He would never manage again. Dementia took him today.
You do not need to stay here long to make a lasting impact. What Wim did at Celtic will forever be a credit to his talent and his undoubted charm. May he rest in peace.