The likes of Manchester United and Liverpool would claim to be the biggest clubs on the British Isles, yet it was Celtic that became the first team from the island to become the champions of Europe. And their legendary manager Jock Stein had a lot to do with the fact.
Stein took to football as escape from his tough life in the Lancashire coal mines. He left school in 1937 to work in a carpet factory and soon after went down the pits to become a coal miner. He later remarked that all that he learned in life was from his experiences in the pits.
His football career began with Blantyre Victoria with whom he signed in 1940 and his first professional club were Albion Rovers. He stayed with them for eight years from 1942 to 1950, before moving to Llanelli Town for a year-long stint. He ultimately landed at Celtic in 1951 where he hung his playing boots six years later in 1957.
His coaching career began that same year with the Celtic reserves and many of the youngsters he coached would go on to play under him for the first team a few years later. However, due to his Protestant beliefs, he felt his progress would be curtailed at the club of Catholic beliefs, so he decided to move.
When he took the reins of Dunfermline in March 1960, the club were flirting with relegation, but Stein guided them to six successive wins to secure their top flight status; next year he won them the Scottish Cup. He eventually left the club in 1964.
Stein then had a stint with Hibernian, but before he could complete even his first year at the club, Celtic signed him up.
In his 13-year stint with the Hoops he made them a major force not just in the United Kingdom but entire Europe, winning a remarkable haul of ten league titles. His biggest victory as a manager came in 1967, when he guided a group of local youngsters to the ultimate glory in European football: the European Cup.
Up against Celtic were the formidable Inter Milan of Helenio Herrera, the master practitioners of catenaccio, but Stein’s men peppered the Inter goal with such frequency that the legendary Tarcisio Burgnich later remarked: “We just knew, even after 15 minutes, that we were not going to keep them out… Even in the dressing room at half-time we looked at each other and we knew we were doomed.”
Stein guided Celtic to another European Cup final in 1970, but his side lost to Feyenoord. Celtic reached two separate semi-finals too.
The man who was steeped in the beautiful game suffered a heart attack in the dugout while leading Scotland in a 1986 World Cup qualifier against Wales at Ninian Park. He later died in the stadium’s medical room.
Inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame and the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, Stein has been voted the greatest ever Scottish manager. A life-size bronze statue of Stein finds pride of a place outside Celtic Park, and a stand in the stadium also bears his name.
Dunfermline Athletic: Scottish Cup 1960–61
Hibernian: Summer Cup (1): 1964
Celtic: Scottish league (10): 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1973–74, 1976–77
Scottish Cup (8): 1964–65, 1966–67, 1968–69, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1976–77
Scottish League Cup (6): 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1974–75
European Cup (1): 1966–67
Scotland: Rous Cup (1): 1985