Jock Stein was the only one never to venture south of the border (you can hardly count two sorry months in charge of Leeds in 1978), but he did win back-to-back titles with Celtic from 1966-1974 (leaving Scotland's Old Firm with an obsession with the number nine which has reached a crescendo this season). The cynics will say Big Jock had little competition, but Stein's Lisbon Lions were as close to perfection as it gets.
We know why the Africans make great runners and the Chinese are peerless at ping-pong, but it's not easy to isolate why the Scots are so adept at managing football teams. Most of the greats shared similar working- class backgrounds, which is perhaps where the seeds of their desire were sown. It's not that they wanted to prove to their "soft southern counterparts'' that they were better than them; they simply wanted to be the best.
The trend started with Sir Matt Busby in the 1950s, a man who even Shankly looked up to. When Shanks was manager of Huddersfield, Denis Law recalls seeing him sidle up to the dressing mirror brandishing a trilby (a trademark of Busby's), putting it on at a jaunty angle and asking: "D'ye no' think I look like Sir Matt Busby, boys?" Shankly even drank sherry when Busby offered it to him, even though Shankly didn't drink. He played to the gallery did Shankly; he had a puritanical streak about him tempered with a wit that endeared him to his players, as Emlyn Hughes testifies: "He didn't want to appear weak in any way. He'd be running with you, laughing and joking. At the end of training he'd walk in and say, `You know something, boys? When I die I want to be the fittest man ever to die'."
Alex Ferguson did his compatriots a big favour by wiping out the argument that to be successful in management down south you had first to progress through the ranks of the English game. Fergie came south with impeccable credentials, but even he was almost sent homewards to think again before United (luckily for them, not so for the rest of us) kept faith in his ability to bring success to Old Trafford.
But despite producing some brilliant club managers, Scottish national managers have hardly set the heather alight. Paddy Crerand, who played for the blue jersey in the 1960s, believed that "if Busby, Stein or Shankly had been Scotland manager from maybe 1958 to 1970, I think you'd probably have seen the Scottish team win the World Cup finals." He did add that it may sound daft...
But Busby, Shankly and Stein would surely turn in their graves at the recent madness of the Scottish managerial merry-go-round. First to go was Jimmy Thomson, sacked by Raith Rovers three games into the season. He was replaced by Tommy McLean who stayed in Kirkcaldy just five days before being recruited by his brother, Jim "Grim'' McLean, to take over from Billy Kirkwood as manager of Dundee United. It wasn't that McLean did it, it was the way he did it that shocked: just 45 minutes after Kirkwood had said his goodbyes and departed, McLean was sitting in the same seat, posing for photographers and explaining how he would make the Tannadice club great again.
Next, Iain Munro leaves Hamilton, apparently to replace Jimmy Bone who had walked out at St Mirren. It transpires, however, that Munro hadn't signed a contract at Love Street and is set to become Raith Rovers' third manager in as many weeks. Instead new manager Tony Fitzpatrick takes charge at St Mirren (and immediately takes the heat off his players by taking them for a slap-up meal - at a Paisley fish and chip shop). Who said the Scots knew how to celebrate in style?
Meanwhile Alex Smith resigns as Clyde manager, and Steve Archibald is sacked at East Fife. And don't be surprised if Hibs manager Alex Miller or Partick's Murdo MacLeod are next for the chop.
Jock Stein was right, up to a point, when he famously said: "We all end up forgotten men in this business. You're very quickly forgotten." The best will never be forgotten because they set standards for the rest: standards which the late, great Bill Shankly epitomised.Reuse content