Archie MacPherson - Highdown - ISBN 1-904317-73-1
- printer friendly version
Stein might have only held the reins at Elland Road for 44 days
(spookily the same length of time as Old Big 'Ead), but there's
no way I could really exclude this book from those covered on
the Mighty Leeds website.
You see, this site is about much more than just football and
this remarkable club, it also attempts to cover a little bit of
the social history of the last 100 years or so, and the 1960's
and 1970's, when Stein reigned supreme as the peerless manager
of Glasgow Celtic, is a rich period indeed for study of people.
The Scot was one of a multitude of genuinely great managers around
at the time … Busby, Ramsey, Nicholson, Revie (of course), Shankly
and even Cloughie, although he came right at the end of the period.
Broadcaster Archie MacPherson bravely titled this tome "Jock
Stein - The Definitive Biography", but he certainly came up with
the goods with one truly great piece of work about a truly great
Just to get the Leeds United stuff out of the way first, there
are only a couple of pages included on Stein's time in charge
in 1978, but it's all enthralling stuff, and we also get a great
insight into the clash between Celtic in Leeds in the European
Cup semi finals in 1970:
"Stein had great respect for Don Revie, the Leeds manager, as
an original thinker in the game, but he did not think Celtic deserved
the treatment they received both before and after the match. The
English press annoyed him by writing off his team as 'no-hopers'.
Revie did not help matters by being irritating. As both teams
normally wore white stockings the visitors had to change, but
as Celtic did not have an adequate replacement the Leeds manager
offered them two alternatives that were to hand. The colours were
blue or red. 'Aghast' was certainly not the word bandied about
the Celtic dressing-room at that choice. A Celtic team with red
or blue would have tested the loyalty of their support to the
limit. What to do? Stein's humour soothed the savage breasts.
He kept any anger about that confined to the dressing-room so
that Leeds would not detect they had been upset. 'We'll wear the
red stockings,' he said. 'Under their floodlights they'll show
up more orange than red and our supporters will think we're wearing
the colours of the Irish tricolour. That'll please them.' It did
… 'Revie's shitting himself,' he told them. 'I've never seen that
man as nervous in all my life. He's as white as a sheet. If he's
like that, what do you think his players are like? They are there
for the taking, believe you me.'"
Now enough of such horrible memories…
MacPherson has produced a quite remarkable thing here, a real
rarity - a footballing biography which actually hangs together
as a decent piece of writing, happily bereft of all the clichés
and dross that normally accompanies such things. He writes remarkably
well, and belies his rather comical public image, with a deep
and thoughtful pen portrait of one of the truly great football
men of the last century.
282 pages brim over with affection and yet remain remarkably
objective about Stein, skillfully bringing out the best and the
worst of the man … and there certainly were an awful lot of faults
with a guy, who was often considered akin to a saint in at least
half of Glasgow.
MacPherson also captures the fall from grace of Stein and his
shameful ejection by the Celtic board, a sad period indeed in
the man's life, but not as sad as the end, when he died at pitchside
during a World Cup qualifier.
"I felt a little bit as though I were sitting beside the tattooed
man from Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man: the pictures on his
body told different stories. Stein had no tattoos that I know
of, and certainly not of King Billy on his chest as was widely
rumoured at one time, but out of every pore on his body could
stream a thousand stories relating to the most significant era
in Scottish football and to the attitudes of a society in which
his father never wished him well when Celtic played Rangers and
his best friend shunned him because he signed for the Parkhead
club. I was with a man who had really begun to alter people's
perceptions on bigotry in such a practical way that it challenged
the ineffectiveness of pious utterances from various pulpits.
A consistently successful Celtic side under Stein put Celtic scarves
into 'Protestant' school playgrounds where previously they would
not have been found by tracker dogs."
STRONGLY RECOMMENDED … a most remarkable book.
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