All this mania and fetishisation of ten-in-a-row – it was getting to Archie Macpherson. So what did he do? Reboot his biography of Jock Stein, the man who first got to nine.
“It was something to do in lockdown,” he tells me of the audiobook which he’s narrated, “but I was also concerned that Stein’s achievement was being obscured by the passage of time and the hysteria currently being generated by the ten-in-a-row obsession.
“It’s a frenzy. Celtic supporters think that if they get to ten they will enter Valhalla. But ten for Rangers fans will be the end of civilisation as they know it. Now, the arithmetic of ten looks attractive, no doubt and that – but in what context and what kind of league?
“Remember that Stein in 1965 came upon a club who were thoroughly down in the dumps. Celtic had been subjugated by Rangers. The first two attendances at Celtic Park of his reign were just 18,000 and 19,000 – one game drawn and the other lost. But two years later millions watched as the European Cup was won – incredible.
“I just think that all the chatter about ten is starting to sound cheap and we mustn’t lose sight of context and perspective. Stein (pictured) achieved unprecedented things on the continent while hoovering up domestically. And domestically the league was more competitive than has been the case for the current Celtic, with Rangers out of the league for so long. In Stein’s era Rangers were proper rivals, achieving in Europe, too. The season of Lisbon Dundee United beat Barcelona. The week of Lisbon Kilmarnock were competing in the semi-finals of the old Fairs Cup.
“Clubs are perfectly entitled to go after achievements and ten would be a considerable one. But in my view Stein’s was unique and unsurpassable.”
Who would argue with Archie?
Jock Stein: The Definitive Biography is available on Amazon, iTunes and Audible.
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