Jock Stein stands as Celtic Football Club’s greatest manager, a towering figure in the club’s history who led them to their greatest triumph and won it “by playing football. Pure, beautiful, inventive football.”
It is hard to understate Stein’s influence on modern football. Deploying attacking full-backs and playing a relentless, attacking game that was years ahead of its time, his team of Lisbon Lions unlocked Internazionale’s fabled ‘catenaccio’ to win the European Cup in 1967.
In doing so they not only became the first British side to win club football’s greatest prize but the first team in Northern Europe to lift it, ending an Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish stranglehold on the competition.
Birthplace Burnbank, Lanarkshire
Date of birth 5/10/1922
Date of death 10/9/1985
Playing career Blantyre Victoria, Albion Rovers, Llanelli Town, Celtic
Teams managed Dunfermline Athletic, Hibernian, Celtic, Leeds United, Scotland
Celtic’s 2-1 win over Inter in Lisbon came at the beginning of a period of total domestic domination for the Celtic Park side, who would clinch nine league titles in a row under his guidance – setting a Scottish record that has been matched in the decades since but never surpassed.
Stein and Celtic’s successes were built on a strong foundation of homegrown players and during his tenure he would not only rear ‘the Lions’ - Celtic’s greatest ever team, all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park - but bring through the ‘Quality Street Kids’, among them Danny McGrain and Kenny Dalglish.
Before joining Celtic, he cut his teeth in management at East End Park, where he led Dunfermline Athletic to a Scottish Cup victory, beating Celtic 2-1 in the 1961 final. In a brief spell at Hibs he again showed his ability, leading them from the doldrums of a relegation dogfight to the upper reaches of the table and a place in the semi-finals of the 1964-65 Scottish Cup.
In his own words
There is not a prouder man on God’s earth than me at this moment. Winning was important, aye, but it was the way we have won that has filled me with satisfaction. We did it by playing football. Pure, beautiful, inventive football.
Leeds and Scotland
Later in his career he enjoyed a brief spell at Elland Road with Leeds United before taking on what would be his final job, that of Scotland manager. Stein had previously led the national team on a part-time basis and, as permanent manager, would qualify for the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cup Finals.
Tragically, he did not go to that latter competition. As the team qualified with 1-1 draw in Cardiff, Stein collapsed on the touchline, having suffered a fatal heart attack. He was just 62 years of age. His assistant, a certain Alex Ferguson, led Scotland to Mexico in his stead.
Ferguson compared his mentor’s passing to the death of ‘the king’. And, as ‘Fergie’ enjoyed his own successes with Aberdeen and Manchester United, arguably becoming the greatest ever Scottish football manager, he would often talk of Stein’s influence and extraordinary vision.
While celebrated by fans and football writers, Jock Stein was consistently lauded by his peers, with perhaps the most famous quote relating to him coming from the great Liverpool manager and fellow Scot, Bill Shankly. In the wake of Celtic’s triumph in the heat of Lisbon he told Stein, ‘John, you’re immortal now’.
Shankly’s quote rings true to this day. Stein will forever stand as one of football’s giants, his achievements, victories, and his determination to play and play placing him on the pantheon of the true greats.
Honours as a Manager
Scottish League Cup