‘Stein is most influential manager in UK history’
Tonight on BBC Radio 5 Live former Scotland winger Pat Nevin will present a two-hour tribute to the man he believes is the father of football in this country.
Jock Stein would have been 90 last Friday but the great man died in Cardiff of a heart attack immediately after guiding Scotland to the draw they required against Wales for a World Cup play-off on 10 September, 1985. Fittingly, Nevin’s documentary on the man he believes to be the most influential manager in British football history will air two days before Craig Levein’s side attempt to keep their hopes of qualification for Brazil 2014 alive in the Welsh capital.
Former Chelsea and Everton player Nevin argues that what sets Stein aside from his peers is the impact he continues to make on the modern game.
“Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly were indisputably great managers but what they achieved effectively began and ended with Manchester United and Liverpool respectively,” he said. “With Mr Stein it was different. What he did and what he taught continued after he died because of the impact he had on the other managers who worked with him.
“Sir Alex Ferguson claims he was the biggest influence on him – and Craig Brown, Walter Smith and Jim McLean say much the same. Then there are the players who were taught by him who went on to become successful managers – people like Billy McNeill, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan.
“His impact is also felt by David Moyes at Everton, who got it second-hand from McNeill. One of the most striking things I discovered while making this programme was that everybody he spoke to can remember everything that he said to them – and I include myself in that group.” Nevin’s most vivid encounter with the great man came when he was playing for Scotland’s Under-21 side against Spain in 1984.
“The game was in Cadiz and I felt I’d had a decent first half,” he said. “Andy Roxburgh was taking the team then but Big Jock came into the dressing room at half-time and made a bee-line for where I was sitting.
“He started shouting and bawling at me, telling me that I hadn’t been trying a leg and that I was just a little poser.
“The language was choice as he asked me who I thought I was.
“People talk about Fergie’s hairdryer but I can see now where he got that from because this was like a tornado. I couldn’t understand why he’d destroyed me like that but I went back out for the second half determined to show him he was talking rubbish.
“I ran myself into the ground and the game ended 0-0. As we sat in the bus afterwards, he walked past me, ruffled my hair and said: ‘Brilliant, wee man – from start to finish.’ It was only some time later that I found out that he’d been considering calling me into the full squad and he wanted to know how I’d react to being put under pressure like that.
“He wanted to know if I had any bottle and the fact that I stood up to his barrage proved that. Sadly, he died before I got my first full cap, which came when Sir Alex was the caretaker.”
Stein was also a self-taught psychologist and a master of the craft, as Nevin discovered on another occasion. “I’d been voted the Second Division’s Young Player of the Year after Clyde won promotion in 1982,” he said. “The awards dinner was in Largs. Mr Stein was presenting it to me and I sat next to him all night. There were a million questions I was dying to ask him but I never got a word in. Instead, he did all the asking. Who was my favourite player? Which teams did I enjoy watching? What did I think about Alex McLeish as a defender?
“I’ve met very few people who are capable of controlling conversations but he did it effortlessly. He was determined to discover what made people tick.”
Stein famously transformed Celtic from domestic under-achievers who’d gone eight seasons without a trophy into European champions in the space of two years. “It’s easy to forget how innovative he was,” said Nevin. “When he became Celtic’s manager in 1965, training still consisted of players running laps round the pitch. He was the man who introduced the ball to these sessions. All of a sudden the work was based on skill and players enjoyed it – he put the fun into functional.
“Mr Stein never blinded anyone with science. His genius was keeping things simple. He would ask players to concentrate on what they were good at and forget the rest. His wisdom worked right until the end. On the night he died he sent on Davie Cooper for Gordon Strachan – and Coop converted the penalty that took us through.”
l You’re immortal now: the legacy of Jock Stein will be broadcast by BBC Radio 5 at 7:30pm tonight.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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