This is the man who brought Jock Stein to Celtic

A reader’s comment this morning to David Potter’s outstanding Celtic Diary where the Celtic historian tells the story of Celtic on this day every morning exclusively on The Celtic Star, is worthy of additional prominence.

From David Potter’s Diary this morning…

WEDNESDAY 18 MARCH 1953 – Loud boos are heard from the minuscule crowd around Parkhead this Wednesday afternoon as Celtic go down 0-1 to Airdrie. The team lost to Rangers in the Scottish Cup on Saturday, and are in the middle of a bad run of form. The question is asked “If there is to be a Coronation Cup the year, would Celtic deserve to be one of Scotland’s representatives?”

And the response from Mike, on The Celtic Star earlier this morning…

Wednesday 18th. March, 1953.

Is a reminder of Bill Daly’s contribution to ‘The Celtic Foundation’. His relative and Celtic player Michael Haughney collected the signatures of that, at the time Celtic team. Having looked at the autographed names closely they contain some really outstanding names and what a reminder of Celtic’s history through those mostly barren times, they were a preparation of what was to come a decade later.

Sean Fallon – Bobby Collins – Alex Boden – Eric Smith – Jimmy Docherty – John Stein – John McPhail – Jimmy Walsh – Allen Dowdell – Charlie Tully – Jimmy Gribben (Ass. Trainer) – Bobby Evans – Bertie Peacock – Dick Beattie – Willie Fernie – Allan Marshall – and of course Bills relative – Michael Haughney. Bill also donated Michael’s autographs of the Manchester Utd’s Busby Babes. What an outstanding thing to do, so a big thanks to Bill Daly.

Fascinating to see big Jock’s signature alongside Jimmy Gribben’s and Jock never forgot his friend Jimmy Gribben and how he helped to bring him back to “Paradise” – Mike.

Jimmy Gribben as you would probably expect has previously been featured on The Celtic Star and while dropping the link into the comments for Mike’s benefit, it is certainly worth telling this story again from an article back in 2018 from David Tracey.

Jimmy Gribben, Celtic’s forgotten legend…

ON returning to a packed Celtic Park foyer after clinching the European Cup, Jock Stein made a bee line for a man he held in the highest regard – Jimmy Gribben.

Even now a little known figure, Jimmy was instrumental in bringing Jock to Celtic when we needed a short term fix to our centre half problem. A word in the ears of Robert Kelly and James McGrory by Jimmy and approaches were made to Stein to come to Celtic – shortly after arriving, the situation became worse when Alec Boden was injured and so Jock promoted to the first team.

Jimmy Gribben therefore was the catalyst to our most successful period when Jock would later return as manager (indeed, in a prequel to Jock taking the Euro trophy to Jimmy, after winning the Scottish Cup in ’65 – our first trophy for 8 years – it was Jimmy Gribben who was given the honour of carrying the trophy into the Central Hotel where the post match celebrations were to be held).

In the notes for his own testimonial programme (vs Liverpool, 1978) Jock Stein said that ‘no one knew more about football than Jimmy Gribben… people like Jimmy are the lifeblood of football’ and again we Celts can be thankful for Jimmy’s footballing nous – when a certain Jimmy Johnstone arrived at Celtic Park both Bob Kelly and Jimmy McGrory felt he would never make the grade, mainly due to his diminutive nature but Jimmy Gribben persuaded the two – and continued to argue on behalf of Johnstone – that the wee man had the qualities required to flourish at Celtic and so Jimmy Johnstone was given the chance to become ‘wee Jinky’.

Gribben’s son Billy used to be told of the tiny wing wizard and said later ‘I’m sure every Celtic fan is glad my dad made them persevere as he went on to become the best player the club has ever known.’

Jimmy Gribben was a player for Boness and played in 1927 against Celtic (who performed poorly with Johnny Thomson being our best player). Celtic won 1-0 but Jimmy and his fellow forwards were referred to in match reports as ‘clever players’.

Jock Stein, Celtic manager

He joined Celtic as a scout in 1940 and his relationship with Celtic would last until he died in 1976 (he had thought about leaving in late 60s to let a younger man take on the role but Stein said ‘you’ll be here as long as I am’ though officially Jimmy parted company with the club in 1970).

A man who helped bring through many of the young players that Stein would later mould into the Lisbon Lions, Gribben was also someone who Stein could go to for advice and to bounce ideas off and without a doubt Jock saw the knowledgeable older man as a mentor, both in personal and footballing terms and we should all be eternally grateful to the late, great Jimmy Gribbin.

On a personal note thanks to my cousin (Jimmy Gribben was my auntie’s da) for supplying some match reports and newspaper cuttings about Jimmy. My own da remembers an occasion when one of Jimmy’s daughters brought round a young lad to meet the family and during the meal the lad finished the milk he had been given- ‘excuse me, would it be possible to have another glass of milk?’ enquired the nervous young man – he became instantly more nervous when Jimmy replied ‘whit dae ye think this is son, a café?’ haha.

David Tracey

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

1 Comment

  1. I actually met Mr Gribben once as a young kid living in Baillieston. He was a near neighbour of my best mate in Greenshields Rd. He gave us some Scotland International badges. My mother sewed one onto my Jersey. We knew he was a Celtic scout and hoped he might have a look at us when we were playing at Maxwell Park. If he did he didn’t recommend us to Celtic! Although my mate did go on to play with Albion Rovers and Queen of the South.