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Born: Thursday 5 October 1922, Burnbank, Scotland
Died: Tuesday 10 September 1985, Cardiff, Wales (aged 62)
Position: Centre Half/Manager
Captain of Celtic in his playing days, it was as manager at the club that Jock Stein sealed his place among the legends of the game. He led Celtic to 24 major domestic trophies including a record-breaking run of nine consecutive league titles, as well as becoming the first British manager to win the European Cup. Later in his career he became manager of the Scottish national team, a position which he held until his death.
John Stein, always known as Jock, was born on 5 October 1922 in Burnbank, near Hamilton. He came from a family of Rangers supporters and grew up in a mining area, where football was one of the few means of escape from a life working down the pits. When he left school in 1937, Stein got a job working down a mine and played for junior side Blantyre Victoria, before getting his chance to turn professional five years later with nearby Albion Rovers.
A tough centre half, Stein played for Albion Rovers until 1950 making 236 appearances, many of them in wartime matches. When he eventually left the club it was a surprising move, to Llanelli in south Wales, who had ambitions of being elected into the English league. Stein failed to settle in Wales and looked for a move back to Scotland but his potential transfer to Celtic was controversial. Some fans felt he was too old and they were also very aware of his Protestant background and support for Rangers. Stein's own father was firmly against the move.
Initially a reserve, he soon broke into the first team and eventually progressed to become club captain. Celtic were a mid-table team when he signed but in 1954 Stein captained the club to their first league title in 16 years, to which they added the Scottish Cup with a final victory over Aberdeen. The team were given a trip to watch the World Cup as a reward and it was there that Stein developed a great admiration for the styles of play favoured by the leading European teams.
Stein won no more major honours as a player and was forced to retire early in 1957 due to persistent ankle injuries. He was given a job coaching Celtic's reserve team, a position which he held for the next three years. In March 1960, Stein was offered the job of manager at fellow top flight club Dunfermline Athletic, who were deep in relegation trouble with six games of the season to go. Remarkably, Stein led a team who had won just four league games up to that point to six consecutive victories and to safety in the league.
The following season, Stein further enhanced his growing reputation as one of the finest managers in Scotland when he led Dunfermline to their first ever major trophy, a Scottish Cup success achieved with a replay victory over Celtic of all teams. In 1964, having established Dunfermline as a top-half side, Stein moved to Edinburgh to take charge of Hibernian. His dedication to understanding every aspect of the game made him one of the most in-demand managers in Britain.
Stein had an offer to move to English side Wolves but really wanted the manager's job at Celtic. The club were initially reluctant to appoint a Protestant manager, but such considerations were soon forgotten. An excellent man-manager with an imposing presence in the dressing room, his impact was immediate. Appointed in March 1965 with Celtic in mid-table, within weeks he led the club to Scottish Cup success, coincidentally beating Dunfermline in the final. In his first full season, Stein delivered the league title, finishing two points ahead of fierce rivals Rangers, adding the League Cup for good measure.
Building a team of local players rather than buying in stars from further afield, 1966-67 proved to be Stein's finest season. Celtic retained both the title and the League Cup, before a 2-1 win over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final sealed the club's first ever domestic treble. However it was in Europe that Stein achieved his greatest success. Celtic won through to the European Cup final against Italian side Inter, European champions in two of the previous three years. Inter took an early lead in the final in Lisbon, but Stein's side hit back in the second half with two goals to become the first British side to lift the trophy and complete a quadruple success. That success was achieved with a team all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park.
Celtic lost the Intercontinental Cup final to Argentinian side Racing Club, after a violent match which was alleged to have been the reason Stein was not awarded a knighthood. Despite that defeat, Stein's team continued to dominate Scottish football. 1968 brought a third consecutive league title and a League Cup win, with a second domestic treble following a year later. In 1970, a fifth title in a row was won by 12 clear points ahead of Rangers.
By 1974, the run of league titles had reached nine, a record for Scottish football that still stands, although it was equalled by Rangers in 1997. All but one of those titles was accompanied by at least one cup success and when the run was ended by Rangers in 1975 success in both cups provided ample compensation. Later in 1975, Stein was almost killed in a car crash and in his absence, Celtic failed to win a trophy for the first time since he was appointed manager. Once he had recovered from his injuries, he returned to the manager's job and promptly won yet another league and cup double in 1977.
Despite that success, Celtic were not the team they had been earlier in the decade. Stein also was a changed man, much quieter and more subdued. Star player Kenny Dalglish was sold to Liverpool and Stein's relationship with the board deteriorated. He resigned as manager in 1978 having won ten league titles, eight Scottish Cups and six league cups, in addition to the European Cup. Much to his disappointment, Stein was not offered a position as director and moved to England to take charge at Leeds United. Within weeks however, the job of Scotland manager came up following an early exit from the World Cup.
Stein took the job and despite failure to qualify for the European Championship in 1980, did lead his country to the World Cup in Spain two years later. In that tournament, Scotland started with a 5-2 win over New Zealand but then lost heavily to Brazil, meaning that they had to beat the Soviet Union in their final match to reach the second round for the first time. Having fallen 2-1 down, a late equaliser was not enough to save Scotland and Stein's team were knocked out.
Scotland finished bottom of their qualifying group for the 1984 European Championship, but Stein led them to the brink of another World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Needing only a draw against Wales to guarantee at least a play-off with Australia, a late penalty brought them level. Just as the team were celebrating however, tragedy struck. Stein collapsed on the touchline and despite the best efforts of medical personnel to revive him, died a short time later at the age of 62. The country was stunned, but without him the team went on to qualify successfully for the World Cup. Today, a statue of Stein stands outside Celtic Park in honour of the club's greatest manager.
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- Published on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 00:06