In a thread on ‘quotes’ – something which you will know dear reader I often use to introduce these wanderings – someone related a story about our greatest ever manager to the effect that he told ‘a Hun Manager’ that ‘predicting scores was a mug’s game’ after that individual had forecast a 2-0 win for the FOD in a forthcoming fixture.
In another place on the web, this story grew legs and the manager concerned was named as Scot Symon – a very successful Rangers boss of the 50’s and early 60’s.
At the risk of being contradicted by all and sundry, I am prepared to state categorically that this never happened, that it has the status of an urban legend and is only loosely connected to the truth of what actually took place.
The occasion of Mr. Stein remarking that making predictions was a ‘mug’s game’ involved not a Rangers manager, but one who was the 60’s equivalent of what we now regard as an example of ‘lap-top loyal’ – one Alec Cameron.
I cannot recall whether it was Arthur Montford or Bob Crampsey to whom he said it, but in an interview on Scotsport, Jock was asked to forecast the score of an approaching Celtic -Rangers game. His reply: ‘predicting scores is a mug’s game – I’ll leave that to Alec Cameron’.
Jock Stein had the utmost respect for Scot Symon and would never have lowered himself to such a cheap jibe had the incident involved the Rangers manager.
As he showed on the occasion when he tore a strip from Bertie Auld after our cheeky mid-field genius had sat on the ball in a game versus Clyde, when we were 7 or 8 goals to the good, he believed that ‘you never humiliate your fellow professionals’.
Journalists however were easy prey for the biggest predator in the woods. Unless you could show by your writing or your broadcasting that you were prepared to treat Celtic with fairness then the big man would declare open season on you.
The Human Torpedo has on this site told us of Jock’s wars against the BBC in the early days of his stewardship at Celtic Park, and we have Archie McPherson’s testimony about how hard he had to work to get the Celtic Manager’s trust.
People like Cyril Horne, John Rafferty and Hugh McIllvanney had no trouble in their dealings with Stein. They were good professionals and gained his respect although he even took the great Bob Crampsey to task one evening on radio Clyde after we had clinched the title and the former Brain of Britain had congratulated him on the win.
Jock ripped into him, commenting that he was surprised that Crampsey had even noticed given the lack of praise that had come his team’s way from that station throughout the season.
Jock said – ‘I can understand that Richard Park – we know where his sympathies lie, but you, with your background, I expect better. (Crampsey went on to be Head Teacher at a Catholic
Comprehensive school in Coatbridge, but his affections always lay with Queen’s Park). Park was known as ‘Ibrox’ Park for his unashamed favouring of the blues. To be fair to our schoolmaster – he later wrote a very good biography of Stein.
It would be unfair to describe Alec Cameron as the 60’s equivalent of Chic Young – he was brighter than that – but his affections for the Dark Side were not well hidden and as such he was seen by Stein as fair game.
After our glorious Cup Final replay win in 1971 which St. Anthony refers to above – Harry Hood got the goal which turned out to be the decider although Celtic had torn them apart throughout the 90 minutes – Alec Cameron was given the task of interviewing the winning manager. When asked for his opinion on the game, Jock stated that he thought 2-1 was a good result for Rangers. Cameron walked straight into it by saying ‘you mean a good result for Celtic?’ only for Jock to restate his view that ‘no, it was a good result for Rangers’, leaving Alec somewhat nonplussed.
Cameron was clearly nettled by these encounters with the Big Man and stored them up, waiting for an opportunity to get back at Jock. He got his chance some years later when Stein was on a panel before an international and suggested a possible result, giving Cameron the chance to say, ‘I thought you said predicting scores was a mug’s game’. My recollection was that Stein was less than happy, however, if you live by the sword ……
So you see dear reader, if you are a genuine legend, those who come after you may well tell stories about you which have become polished and worn over the years – often to suit their own agendas – notably in the world of Celtic and their rivals.
The point in my little rant however, is that the telling at the start demeans not the memory of Scot Symon or any other ‘Hun manager’, but that of Jock Stein.
He may have had his faults but humiliating his professional peers was not one of them.