Wales v Scotland: Final whistle for Scottish legend Jock Stein

With Scotland playing in Wales tonight, Robin Scott-Elliot reflects on Jock Stein's death at the same fixture 27 years ago

The last instruction Jock Stein issued as a manager, in a career that had stretched over a decorated quarter of a century, was to send Davie Cooper, an erratic winger in the best Scottish traditions, on to the Ninian Park pitch. Off came Gordon Strachan. There were 29 minutes remaining, Stein's Scotland trailed Wales by a Mark Hughes goal and defeat meant the road to the 1986 World Cup finals would be barred.

"He started out making great decisions and he went out with a great decision – taking me off!" Strachan was to say. There were 10 minutes remaining when Cooper scored, scudding home a low penalty. Little more than 10 minutes later Stein was dead. Graeme Souness, suspended for the game, stood outside the room where Stewart Hillis, Scotland's doctor and Stein's own GP, was fighting to save Stein's life. Soon Souness was wandering down the corridor, tears running down his face. "He's gone," he said.

Television pictures of the night, in September 1985, captured Scottish celebrations beginning on the pitch, as a point knocked out Wales and meant the Scots went into a play-off to earn a place in Mexico the following summer. Then suddenly there was Stein being carried down the tunnel by a posse of policemen, a confused look pinned on his face. He disappeared from the camera's view. He was 62. "Time stopped," says Maurice Malpas, who played at full-back that night.

Alongside Stein on the bench for the match was Alex Ferguson, his assistant. There is a black-and-white picture that captures the moment Stein first collapsed – he had mistaken a free-kick for the final whistle and moved to shake hands with Mike England, his opposite number, and shoo away the photographers who had clustered around to capture his latest moment of triumph. In the background a fresh-faced Ferguson looks on with alarm as another member of the Scotland staff reaches for the tumbling Stein.

"For people like myself, Jock was the precursor of all the deeds and challenges we needed to aim at," Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. "He would never take the praise himself. It was always about the players and how great the team were. The magnanimity tells you everything about him. For any man seeking to further his education in football, Jock Stein was a one-man university."

Stein learnt his football the hard way. He followed his father down the pits in between playing for Albion Rovers before belatedly joining Celtic, where his leadership qualities became apparent. Injury forced retirement and he began his managerial career with Dunfermline, taking them into Europe. In 1965, having turned down a number of English clubs, he returned to Celtic and it was there his reputation was for ever cemented; a first league title in 12 years and then in 1967 the European Cup, the first British winners.

He took over Scotland in 1978, leaving Leeds after just 44 days. He steered them to the 1982 finals and then set out on the road to Mexico. "In qualifying games you wear your working clothes," Stein liked to say. "You keep the best suit for the finals." Nevertheless, in the winter of 1984 Scotland produced one of their best performances of modern times, Kenny Dalglish rounding off a 3-1 victory over Spain in front of an enthralled Hampden Park. The old ground was less enamoured with a 1-0 home defeat by Wales and so it came down to having to take a point from Cardiff.

Stein was without Souness and the injured trio of Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Mo Johnston. But Scotland still had Stein. "He was idolised by the players," says Malpas, now assistant manager to Terry Butcher at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. "The way he spoke to you made you feel special. There were no airs or graces to the man."

The match was dominated by Wales. Hughes scored and at half-time they had a firm grip on the contest. In the Scotland dressing room, Stein's problems were mounting. Goalkeeper Jim Leighton had lost a contact lens and had no replacement. Alan Rough had to come on. Stein stood at the dressing-room door as the players went back out. Rough walked past. "Good luck, ya fat b*****d," Stein said.

It meant Scotland only had one substitution left and Stein turned to Cooper, who himself died tragically young, of a brain haemorrhage in 1995. Cooper took the responsibility after David Speedie's shot was handled by Dave Phillips and, although Neville Southall got a hand to the ball, it was not enough for Wales.

Stein had been on medication but stopped taking it in the build-up to the game. There is a suggestion he felt it was taking an edge off him. "We knew quickly something was wrong," recalls Malpas of the moments after the full-time whistle. "We were together on the pitch when one of the coaching staff told us. It was a long walk to the dressing room. We sat there for ages. The doctor told us what happened. Nobody wanted to move, all the good things from the game disappeared."

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas