Jock Stein succeeded McGrory in 1965. A former player and team captain, Stein gained most of his fame as Celtic’s manager, and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest football managers in the history of the game. Stein is also famous for guiding Celtic to nine straight Scottish League wins from 1966 to 1974, equalling a world record held at the time by MTK Budapest and CSKA Sofia.
Jock Stein was formally announced as the new manager on 31 January 1965, although he did not take up his duties until March to allow Hibernian, who he was managing, time to find his replacement. Jimmy McGrory became the club’s Public Relations Officer, a post he would retain until his retirement. Sean Fallon became Assistant Manager.
On Stein’s arrival in March 1965, Celtic were struggling in the league and continued to have mixed results; Stein winning his first game 6–0 at Airdrie, but then losing 4–2 to Hibs and 6–2 to Falkirk. Celtic had progressed to the semi-finals of the 1964–65 Scottish Cupprior to Stein’s arrival in March. Celtic came from behind twice against Motherwell in the semi-final to force 2–2 draw, then won the replay 3–0. This set up a final against Dunfermline on 24 April 1965. Celtic again came from behind twice before Billy McNeillscored the winning goal in the final minute to clinch a 3–2 win, giving Celtic their first trophy since 1957.
In August 1965, Celtic became the first British football club to produce its own newspaper, The Celtic View. The paper started as a four-page weekly publication and was the brainchild of Jack McGinn who was working in the circulation department of Beaverbrook Newspapers. McGinn himself edited the paper for the first few years, with circulation initially reaching around 26,000 copies.
Season 1965-66 was Stein’s first full season as manager at Celtic. He won his second trophy on 23 October 1965 as two converted penalty-kicks by John Hughes saw Celtic beat Rangers 2–1 in the League Cup final. Celtic clinched their first league title since 1954 on 7 May 1966 with a 1–0 win over Motherwell at Fir Park, finishing two points ahead of Rangers. As a sign of the progress under Stein, Celtic scored 30 more league goals in 1965-66 than they had done the previous year. Celtic also impressed in European competition, reaching the semi-finals of the European Cup Winner’s Cup by knocking out Go Ahead Deventer, AGF Aarhus and Dynamo Kiev. Celtic lost 1–2 on aggregate to Liverpool in the semi-final, although a last minute Bobby Lennox ‘goal’ was controversially disallowed in the second leg at Anfield which would have seen Celtic win the tie via the recently implemented ‘away goals’ rule.
1967 was Celtic’s annus mirabilis. The club won every competition they entered, scoring a world record total of 196 goals: the Scottish League, the Scottish Cup, the Scottish League Cup, the Glasgow Cup, and the European Cup. The League Cup was the first trophy to be won that season, courtesy of a 1–0 win on 29 October 1966 over Rangers in the final. The Glasgow Cup was secured a week later when Celtic beat Partick Thistle 4–0. Celtic’s progression to the Scottish Cup was relatively straightforward aside from being taken to replay in the semi-final by Clyde. On 6 April 1967 Celtic met Aberdeen in the final, and two Willie Wallace goals eased Celtic to a 2–0 win. Celtic’s league campaign proved to be a more tightly contested affair as, despite only losing twice, with two games remaining Rangers were still in contention. Celtic’s penultimate league fixture was against Rangers at Ibrox, with a draw required to clinch the title. A brace by Jimmy Johnstone gave Celtic a 2–2 draw and the championship.
Celtic’s European Cup campaign in 1966–67 was their first ever participation in Europe’s premier club tournament. FC Zurich and Nantes were comfortably disposed of in the first two rounds (5–0 and 6–2 on aggregate respectively). The quarter final in March 1967 pitched Celtic against the Yugoslav champions, Vojvodina. The return match in Glasgow proved to be a fraught affair. The Yugoslavs defended resolutely and threatened on the counter-attack, but Celtic levelled the tie on aggregate in the second half with a goal by Stevie Chalmers. Celtic pressed for a winner, but Vojvodina defended well and the tie looked like a play-off in neutral Rotterdam would be required. However, in the final minute Billy McNeill headed in a Charlie Gallacher cross to see Celtic progress to the semi-final. Celtic now faced Czechoslovakian side, Dukla Prague. This time the first leg of the tie took place in Glasgow, with Celtic winning 3–1 courtesy of goals from Jimmy Johnstone and a Willie Wallace brace. In respect of his opponents’ quality, Stein set up Celtic to be ultra-defensive for the second leg and forsake – temporarily – their philosophy of attacking football. The tactics worked as Celtic secured a 0–0 draw to put them in the final. However, Stein was almost apologetic about the manner of Celtic’s success in that game and he felt uncomfortable in later years discussing the matter.
The Lisbon Lions
The final saw Celtic play Inter Milan, with the match taking place at the Estádio Nacional on the outskirts of Lisbon on 25 May 1967. Celtic fell a goal behind after only seven minutes, Jim Craig adjudged to have fouled Renato Cappellini in the penalty box and Sandro Mazzola converting the resultant penalty. Celtic swept into constant attack after that but found Inter goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti in outstanding form. With 63 minutes played, after incessant pressure, Celtic finally equalised when Tommy Gemmell scored with a powerful 25-yard shot. The balance of play remained the same with Inter defending deeply against sustained Celtic attacking. With about five minutes remaining, a long-range shot from Bobby Murdoch was diverted by Stevie Chalmers past a wrong-footed Sarti. It proved to be the winning goal and thus Celtic became the first British team, and the first from outside Spain, Portugal or Italy to win the competition.
Jock Stein commented after the match
“Winning was important, but it was the way that we won that has filled me with satisfaction. We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football. There was not a negative thought in our heads”
Two weeks later, on 7 June 1967, Celtic played Real Madrid in a testimonial match for the now retired Alfredo Di Stefano. In front of over 100,000 fans at the Bernabéu Stadium, the sides engaged in a keenly fought contest which saw Bertie Auld and Real Madrid’s Amancio sent off. Di Stefano played for the first 15 minutes, but it was Jimmy Johnstone who stole the show with an exhilarating performance that had even the Spanish supporters chanting “Olé!” throughout the game in appreciation of his skill. Johnstone capped an outstanding performance by playing the pass to Bobby Lennox for the only goal in a 1–0 win for Celtic. Celtic are one of only two clubs to have won the trophy with a team composed entirely of players from the club’s home country; all of the players in the side were born within 30 miles of Celtic Park in Glasgow, and they subsequently became known as the ‘Lisbon Lions’. The entire east stand at Celtic Park is dedicated to The Lisbon Lions, and the west stand to Jock Stein. The sight of captain Billy McNeill holding aloft the European Cup in the Estádio Nacional has become one of the iconic images of Scottish football. A statue outside Celtic Park showing Billy McNeill with the European Cup was unveiled in December 2015.
The following season Celtic played Copa Libertadores champions Racing Club of Argentina in the Intercontinental Cup series during October and November 1967. The first game took place at Hampden Park, with Celtic winning 1–0 through a headed goal by Billy McNeill. The match however was marred by incessant foul play and spitting by the Argentinians. The return match in Buenos Aires was a torrid affair; goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was struck by a missile thrown by the Racing Club fans as the teams prepared for kick-off and had to be replaced by stand-in, John Fallon. A Tommy Gemmell penalty put Celtic ahead in the first half but Racing Club rallied and goals from Norberto Raffo and Juan Carlos Cárdenaseither side of half-time clinched a 2–1 for the South American champions. The series of games then went to a decider, played in Montevideo, Uruguay. The game was a shambles, exacerbated by Racing Club’s continual cynical fouling and spitting and the incompetence of the Paraguayan referee who was clearly out of his depth. Riot police had to intervene on the pitch several times as six players were sent off; four from Celtic and two from Racing Club. Bertie Auld was the fourth Celtic player to be sent off, but refused to leave the field, whilst Tommy Gemmell kicked a Racing Club player in the genitals in one of numerous incidents missed by the referee. Racing Club scored the only goal of the game in the second half, winning the game 1–0 and the Intercontinental Cup. Celtic were criticised for their conduct in Montevideo, but the provocation in all three games was extreme and Jock Stein commented afterwards “I would not bring a team to South America again for all the money in the world.”
Celtic put the trauma of their ill-fated Intercontinental Cup involvement behind them to win their third consecutive league title in 1967-68. They also won the League Cup in a high-scoring final, beating Dundee 5–3.
Season 1968-69 saw Celtic won another clean-sweep of the three major domestic trophies (League, Scottish Cup and League Cup) – a ‘treble’ – which included a 10–0 win over Hamilton Accies in the quarter-final of the League Cup and an emphatic 4–0 win over Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final. This was only the club’s second ‘treble’, and they would not repeat the feat again for another 32 years.
Celtic reached the European Cup Final again in 1970, a run which included a 3–0 win at Parkhead over Portuguese side Benfica in the second round. The semi-finals saw Celtic drawn against English champions Leeds Utd. This was the first occasion that the reigning champions of England and Scotland had played each other in a fully competitive European tie. The first leg took place at Elland Road, with a goal in the opening minute from George Connelly giving Celtic a 1–0 lead to take back to Glasgow for the second leg. The return match was played at Hampden Park on 15 April 1970 in front of a 136,505 crowd, a record attendance for a competitive European club tie that stands to this day. In 14 minutes, Billy Bremner scored from long range to level the tie on aggregate. Celtic kept their composure though, and equalised two minutes into the second half though a John Hughes header. Jimmy Johnstone had a particularly outstanding match and his mazy run set up Bobby Murdoch to score with a powerful shot, sealing a 2–1 win for Celtic on the night and their progression to the final.
The final took place on 6 May 1970 at the San Siro in Milan against Dutch side Feyenoord. Celtic were overwhelming favourites, but despite Tommy Gemmell opening the scoring after 30 minutes, they were comprehensively outplayed by the Dutch side and slumped to a 2–1 defeat after extra time.
The early 1970s saw the emergence from the reserves of a group of young players known as the ‘Quality Street Gang’. This group included Danny McGrain, Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay, Lou Macari and George Connelly; all of whom won major honours at Celtic and were capped by Scotland. This emerging group of players helped Celtic reach the semi-finals of the European Cup on a further two occasions, losing on penalties to Inter Milan in 1972 and 2–0 on aggregate to Spanish side Atlético Madrid in 1974.
The tie against the Spaniards was particularly acrimonious. Atlético were managed by Juan Carlos Lorenzo who had coached Argentina at the 1966 World Cup where his players were branded “animals” by Alf Ramsey. In the first leg at Parkhead, the Atlético players continually kicked and hacked their opponents. Three Atlético players were sent off, but their incessant foul play made it impossible, indeed physically dangerous, for Celtic to play their normal game. The match finished 0–0, and the sour evening was completed with a punch-up between the two sets of players as they made their way up the tunnel at full-time. In the buildup for the second leg in Spain, Jimmy Johnstone received a death threat over the hotel phone and a hate campaign from the Spanish media prevented the Celtic players from relaxing or training effectively. Atlético won the match 2–0, winning the tie on aggregate and progressing to the final against Bayern Munich where the Spanish side lost 4–0 after a replay.
On 6 May 1972, Celtic’s Dixie Deans became the first player since 1904 to score a hat-trick in a Scottish Cup final. Celtic defeated Hibernian 6–1, with Celtic’s third goal (and Deans’ second) amongst the most famous of Scottish Cup Final goals. Deans intercepted a mis-directed Hibernian clearance, then rounded their goalkeeper to advance on goal along the by-line; he manoeuvred past a defender then rounded the goalkeeper again before shooting into the net. Deans then celebrated the goal with a spectacular somersault that was frequently re-played on television for years afterwards.
Celtic clinched their ninth successive league title at the end of season 1973-74, equalling the then world record held by MTK Budapest and CSKA Sofia. Celtic failed to win the league the following year, but continued to rack up trophies, beating Airdrie 3–1 on 3 May 1975 in the Scottish Cup final. The match was captain Billy McNeill’s 822nd competitive appearance for the club and immediately prior to kick-off he informed his team-mates that he was now retiring. Nicknamed ‘Cesar’ by his colleagues, McNeill’s career spanned 17 years and saw the centre-half become an integral part of Celtic during what is considered the club’s halycon period. McNeill had arrived at Celtic in the late 1950s during Jock Stein’s time as reserve team coach, and became Stein’s right-hand man on the field upon his return as manager in 1965. He was very much the leader of the team, and years later in interview admitted that there were the occasional “verbal and physical” battles among the players; “Not too often. But we set a standard and, if someone was not meeting it, then, well…” The 1975 Scottish Cup was McNeill’s 23rd major winner’s medal as a player.
Stein was seriously injured in a car accident in the summer of 1975 and spent the next year recuperating. On his return for season 1976-77, he signed Hibernian’s long-serving captain, defender Pat Stanton. Later on in the season, Stein signed attacking midfielder Alfie Conn from Tottenham Hotspur. It was a transfer that surprised many, given Conn had played for Rangers in the early 70s, winning the European Cup Winners Cup for them in 1972 and scoring in a 3–2 win over Celtic in the 1973 Scottish Cup Final. Conn became the first footballer post-World War II to play for both Rangers and Celtic. Celtic, helped considerably by Stanton’s organisation of the defence, went on to win their tenth league and cup double; Celtic finished nine points ahead of Rangers in the league and beat them 1–0 in the cup final courtesy of an Andy Lynch penalty. During this period only Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain remained of the so-called Quality Street Kids, but other very promising players such as midfielder Tommy Burns, defender Roy Aitken and striker George McCluskey were emerging from the reserves. Aitken proved to be particularly versatile, being able to play effectively in midfield as well as defence. He also found himself in a bizarre situation in 1976 when had to be ‘adopted’ by Celtic in order to be allowed to enter East Germany to play a European tie. Aitken was still only 17 years old and the authorities there did not consider him to be an adult.
The following season, Stein’s last as manager of Celtic, was a huge disappointment however. Celtic struggled to cope with the departure of Dalglish to Liverpool and long-term injuries to McGrain and Stanton. The club slumped to fifth place in the league, were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by lower-league Kilmarnock and were beaten 2–1 by Rangers in the League Cup Final.
In May 1978, Billy McNeill was appointed the new manager of Celtic, with former team-mate and fellow Lisbon Lion John Clark as his assistant. Jock Stein remained at Celtic for a further few months. There are conflicting reports as to whether Stein was actually offered a seat on the Board of Directors or not, but either way the specific role intended for him was to run the club’s Football Pools. Stein did not relish that role, and preferring to remain in football with a ‘hands-on’ role, in August 1978 he left Celtic Park to take up the vacant managerial post at Leeds United.
Jock Stein is widely acknowledged as one of the most important influences on the development of Celtic Football Club since Willie Maley. Stein restored Celtic to a position of dominance in Scotland that they had not enjoyed since before World War I, and made the club a respected force throughout Europe. Stein added a new dimension to the position of ‘manager’ in Scotland, and his man-management style and grasp of the psychological side of the game was years ahead of its time. Stein was hugely respected by his peers and a massive influence on the next generation of managers who would follow in his footsteps, in particular Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen and later Manchester United