Jock Stein: The Man Who Inspired The Celtic Rising

Jock Stein: the man who inspired The Celtic Rising…

A century ago yesterday, a baby was born in the Burnbank area of Hamilton who would go on to rewrite the history of Celtic Football Club, taking it from a side struggling to compete in Scotland to the greatest team in Europe, if not the world. And he did all that within two years and with pretty much the group of players he inherited from his old boss, Jimmy McGrory.

Here are some of the milestones in the life and career of the incomparable Jock Stein.

  • 1922 Baby John Stein born in Hamilton on 5 October.
  • 1937 A teenage Jock leaves school and follows his father down the pits at Bothwell Castle Colliery.
  • 1940 Jock’s football career begins in earnest as he signs for local junior outfit Blantyre Victoria.
  • 1942 Jock moves from Blantyre Victoria to begin a professional career as a part-time player with Albion Rovers, who played in the wartime Scottish Southern League. He made his senior debut as a trialist at Cliftonhill on 14 November 1942 against…yes of course, Celtic! The Hoops featured a number of Parkhead legends such as Willie Miller, Bobby Hogg, John McPhail, Malky MacDonald and Jimmy Delaney and they were 3-0 up at half-time but Rovers stormed back after the break as the match ended 4-4. Rovers would finish bottom of the 16-team table in Jock’s first season in Coatbridge whilst Celtic, under manager Jimmy McStay, were ninth.
  • 1943 Jock enjoys a brief loan spell with Dundee United, playing in a cup tie against Raith Rovers at Tannadice in April when his direct opponent was none other than Joe Payne. Payne at that time was registered with Chelsea but back in April 1936 he scored 10 goals for Luton Town against Bristol Rovers, a feat which remains an English League record to this day.
  • 1945 The final season of wartime football sees the clubs from the Northern Football League join a new two-tier nationwide set-up. Sadly, that sees Albion Rovers and near neighbours Airdrieonians drop into the second tier for that 1945/46 campaign.
  • 1946 A big year for Jock, both personally and professionally, as he marries his sweetheart Jeanie Tonner McAuley and official senior football returns after the war. Albion Rovers finish fourth in the new Scottish League Division B, behind promoted Dundee and Airdrieonians and third placed East Fife.
  • 1948 Albion Rovers finish runner’s up to East Fife to gain promotion to Division A. On 4 September 1948, he plays against Celtic once again at Cliftonhill. This time the sides share six goals in a 3-3 draw, the Hoops goals coming from a Jock Weir double and one Charles Patrick Tully. A 21-year-old wing-half called Bobby Evans is also playing for Celtic that afternoon.

 

  • 1949 Jock finally plays against Celtic at Celtic Park, but Albion Rovers lose 3-0 on 15 January. Young Hoops wing-half Tommy Docherty scores the first of his three goals for the club that day with Jock Weir and Jackie Gallacher also on target. Rovers’ rollercoaster period continues as they finish bottom of Division A and are relegated together with Morton. A wee personal aside from me as my uncle Willie Jack leaves St Mirren to become a teammate of Jock’s at Cliftonhill. The pair became good friends.
  • 1950 After eight years and 215 appearances for Albion Rovers, Jock moves to Welsh side Llanelli AFC, who played in the English Southern League. The club progressed through the qualifying competition to take part in the FA Cup, losing out to Bristol Rovers after a second replay on 4 December 1950. Llanelli also failed to gain election to the English Football League in both 1950 and 1951.
  • 1951 That 4 December date was significant, as exactly one year after that Bristol Rovers match Jock got the call to return to Scotland and sign for Celtic for £1200. Jimmy Gribben is the man credited with the suggestion which changed the course of Celtic’s history. Jock made his debut four days later against St Mirren at Celtic Park, replacing Alex Boden at centre-half in a 2-1 win. Young striker Jim Lafferty, playing just his second match in the Hoops, scored both Celtic goals. Some more familiar names in the line-up that day were Sean Fallon, Bobby Evans, Bobby Collins, Bertie Peacock and John McPhail. Jock remains an ever-present in the team for the rest of the season as they finish ninth in the table.
  • 1952 Sean Fallon nominates Jock as his vice-captain, and when the Sligo legend breaks his arm against Falkirk at Brockville on 20 December, Jock Stein becomes the captain of Celtic.
  • 1953 Celts finish eighth in the League in April but shock everyone except perhaps their own supporters the following month by beating Arsenal, Manchester United and a star-studded Hibernian side to win the Coronation Cup, as Hampden is covered in banners of green. Jock lifts his first trophy as Celtic skipper. Hibernian would also feature in another milestone on 7 November. With seven minutes remaining, and Charlie Tully stretchered off, 10-man Celts are trailing the Edinburgh side 2-1 at Celtic Park when Jock heads an equaliser to score his first goal for the club.
  • 1954 The pinnacle of Jock’s playing career as he leads Celtic to a first League and Cup double for 40 years. The title is clinched for the first time in 16 long years at Easter Road on 17 April, then seven days later, Sean Fallon’s winner against Aberdeen at Hampden brings the Scottish Cup home to Paradise. The following midweek would then see Jock gain his only representative honour, when he turned out for the Scottish League against their English counterparts at Stamford Bridge. That would be a bittersweet experience for Jock and fellow Celts Bobby Evans and Willie Fernie as the Scots lost 4-0.

Jock Stein heading ball upfield December 1955

  • 1955 So near and yet so far as Celts fall just short of securing back-to-back doubles, finishing three points behind League Champions Aberdeen and losing out to Clyde in a replayed Scottish Cup final, having been seconds away from winning the cup on the Saturday. Archie Robertson’s last-gasp inswinging corner-kick would ruin that plan but the two men would later become great friends as the managers of their respective clubs. An ankle injury sustained against Rangers in a League Cup section tie in August would eventually bring Jock’s playing career to an end, but he does return in December to lead the team to a 5-3 Glasgow Cup final victory over the same club at Hampden on Boxing Day.
  • 1956 Jock manages just four more games for Celtic before making his final competitive appearance against Dundee at Celtic Park on St Patrick’s Day. Bobby Collins scores the only goal of the game. Jock returned to the team for a friendly against Coleraine in Belfast in May and damages the ankle again. This would prove to be his last match in the Hoops.
  • 1957 Jock officially retires on 29 January and is then appointed as reserve team coach in the close-season, one of his charges being a teenage centre-half called Billy McNeill.
  • 1958 Jock wins his first honour as a coach as his young Celtic reserves destroy Rangers 8-2 on aggregate in the final of the Second XI Cup. The young Celts win 5-1 at Ibrox on 21 March, having beaten the Rangers second-string 3-1 at Celtic Park six days earlier.
  • 1960 Jock leaves Celtic on 14 March to become manager of struggling Dunfermline Athletic. His first game is five days later against…yes, correct again, Celtic at East End Park. The Pars win that game 3-2 and manage to secure their First Division safety with a remarkable late run.
  • 1961 In his first season as a manager, Jock wins the Scottish Cup with Dunfermline. No need to ask who they beat in the final, 2-0 in a Hampden replay after a goalless draw. Jock takes the Pars into European football for the first time where they reach the quarter-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup before losing to Hungarians Ujpest Dozsa.
  • 1962 Dunfermline finish fourth in the League behind champions Dundee, Rangers and Celtic. They also eliminate English high-flyers Everton from the Inter Cities Fairs Cup and pull back a four-goal deficit against Spanish giants Valencia – the holders and eventual winners that season, who had knocked Celtic out in the previous round – before losing 1-0 in a play-off in Lisbon.
  • 1964 Jock leaves Dunfermline to take the manager’s job at Hibernian on 30 March. He again brings silverware to his new club when he wins the Summer Cup, Hibernian beating Aberdeen in a play-off at Pittodrie.

  • 1965 It is announced on 31 January that Jock will replace Jimmy McGrory as Celtic manager as soon as Hibernian have secured a replacement for him. His final game in charge of the club on 6 March sees Hibernian knock Rangers out of the Scottish Cup at Easter Road to progress to the semi-final, where two of the teams they could meet are Celtic and Dunfermline Athletic. Jock is in charge as Celtic beat Motherwell in the semi-final then his old club Dunfermline in the final, a rematch of the clash four years earlier. Once again Jock is triumphant as Celts win by the odd goal in five and The Celtic Rising is underway. He adds the Glasgow Cup the following week then the League Cup in October for good measure, two John Hughes penalty kicks taking Celts past Rangers in the League Cup final. In his spare time, Jock also managed Glasgow and Scottish League selects and the full Scotland team during this year.
  • 1966 In Jock’s first season in charge at Celtic Park, the club wins the League title for the first time in 12 long years. Celts are actually on course for a quadruple in April, but a controversial defeat to Liverpool in the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup at Anfield followed by a late Kai Johansen strike in the replayed Scottish Cup final the following week means he has to settle for two trophies that season. Jock wins a second consecutive League Cup in October, once again beating Rangers in the final, thanks to a Bobby Lennox strike.

Photo: Offside / Archivio Farabola

  • 1967 What can we say. Jock and Celtic win everything but the Boat Race. An unprecedented quintuple of League, Scottish Cup, League Cup, Glasgow Cup and the biggest of all, the European Cup, are won by Stein’s immortal Lisbon Lions in an incredible season. Life will never be the same for the European champions. Only negative that year is a horrific series of clashes with Racing Club, the Argentinian team who won the Copa Libertadores.
  • 1968 Jock’s Celtic side win a third successive League and League Cup double, Dundee this time the victims in the League Cup the previous autumn, but suffer disappointing defeats to Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup and Soviet champions Dynamo Kiev in the European Cup.
  • 1969 It’s two Trebles in three years for Stein and Celtic, all won in the month of April, with two incredible performances in the Hampden finals. Hibernian are 6-0 down before snatching a couple of late consolation goals in the League Cup final and Rangers are destroyed 4-0 in the Scottish Cup final. In the European Cup, competition favourites Celtic and AC Milan slug it out in the last eight, the tie eventually decided by a single goal in favour of the Italians.

  • 1970 Three years after the Road to Lisbon, we have the Road to Milan, as Jock and Celtic reach a second European Cup final, albeit this will end in gut-wrenching defeat in the dying seconds of extra-time to Dutch champions Feyenoord. There was also disappointment in the Scottish Cup final, with a controversial defeat to Aberdeen, but the League and League Cup double was secured for the fifth consecutive season, St Johnstone beaten in the League Cup final the previous October, Jock thus winning the trophy twice in the same calendar year.
  • 1971 It’s another League and Scottish Cup double for Celtic, a sixth successive title equalling Willie Maley’s Scottish record of six decades earlier. Rangers are again defeated in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden, this time after a replay, having earlier beat Celts to end their run of League Cup wins at five. In Europe, it was another Dutch side who beat Celtic en route to winning the European Cup, this time Johan Cruyff’s Ajax just too strong in the last eight.

Jock Stein gives instructions to Jimmy Johnstone April 1972

  • 1972 Back-to-back League and Scottish Cup doubles are secured for the first time by Jock’s Celtic, Hibernian destroyed 6-1 in a record-equalling Hampden final and a seventh consecutive League title won in Methil creating a new record. A shock 4-1 defeat to newly promoted Partick Thistle in the autumn League Cup final prevented a domestic Treble and a spot-kick shoot-out defeat by old rivals Inter Milan in the semi-final of the European Cup means there will be no third final for Jock and Celtic.
  • 1973 Eight-in-a-row is clinched at Easter Road in some style, but Hibernian had beaten Celts in the League Cup final whilst Rangers did likewise in the Scottish Cup final and European progress is halted by Ujpest Dozsa, who Celtic had knocked out a few months earlier.

  • 1974 Make that nine-in-a-row after a 1-1 draw at Brockville, and another Scottish Cup is clinched with a 3-0 win over Dundee United. Dundee beat Celts in a truly miserable League Cup final and the most infamous game ever played at Celtic Park ultimately costs Jock and his team another crack at a European Cup final. Anyone who was present at the semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid will never forget the thuggery on display that April evening.
  • 1975 A dreadful year in so many ways. Celts lose their lead and the prospect of a tenth successive title after a new year slump in form yet still claimed both domestic cups, Hibernian hit for six yet again in the League Cup final then Airdrieonians beaten in the Scottish Cup final as Billy McNeill played his last match for the club. Jimmy Johnstone also left the club that summer, but Jock almost lost his life in a car crash in July whilst returning from holiday. He would not return to the manager’s role until one year later, Sean Fallon stepping in for him.

  • 1977 Jock returns for the 1976/77 season and guess what, he only goes and wins another League and Cup double with Celtic! And it should have been a Treble, after a heart-breaking loss to Aberdeen after extra-time in the League Cup final. That would be Jock’s last hurrah in terms of domestic glory, although his final trophy win took place that August on the other side of the world, as Celts claimed the World Soccer Cup in Australia. The loss of Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool and Danny McGrain, Pat Stanton and Alfie Conn to injury in the opening weeks of the season saw a depressing end to the most incredible era in Celtic’s history.
  • 1978 Jock leaves Celtic and takes over as boss of Leeds United, as his old captain Billy McNeill takes over as manager of Celtic. The Elland Road job does not work out and Jock is asked to pick up the international reins at Scotland again after the fiasco of Argentina.

  • 1982 Jock successfully leads his country through qualification to the World Cup finals in Spain, where they narrowly lose out to Brazil and the Soviet Union in the opening round.

  • 1985 It’s all over for Celtic and Scotland’s greatest ever manager. In the dying seconds of a nerve-wracking World Cup qualifier against Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff in September, Jock tragically collapses at the dugout and attempts to revive him are unsuccessful. He is only 62.

God bless you, Jock. The man who inspired The Celtic Rising.

You will never walk alone.

Matt Corr

Follow Matt on twitter @Boola_vogue and @HarryHoodBook

READ THIS…“Placing your trust in Jock Stein always was the wisest course,” Kevin McCarra

CLICK ON IMAGE TO PRE-ORDER, THE CELTIC RISING IS PUBLISHED ON FRIDAY 4 NOVEMBER 2022

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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