The Night A Nation Cried 

Hey Readers 

It was on this day in 1985  that Scotland lost the man who in my opinion was and remains our greatest ever football manager I refer of course to former Celtic and Scotland boss Jock Stein who died of a heart attack as he guided Scotland on the way to the World  Cup Finals in Mexico the following year.  This to me was my first experience of the death of a sporting hero and Mr Stein’s achievements in the game are the stuff of legends Not only did he guide Celtic to win the European Cup and be the first British and so far only Scottish club ever to do so he also guided them to 9 league titles in a row and 10 in 13 years with numerous Scottish Cups and League Cups to add to his collection. 
On top of this he then led  his country to one World Cup and the brink of another before the tragic events of this night 31 years ago. It is his honour I finally write this poem and give it the only title I can The Night A Nation Cried  and I hope that whether you’re a Celtic fan, a Scotland fan, both , or neither that if you are a real football fan you will enjoy this tribute to the man who in my eyes will always be the epitome of what a real football manager should be. 

The Night A Nation Cried 

It was in the chill of an early autumn evening

the manager picked his team 

for a game our country couldn’t afford to lose 

we needed to avoid defeat against Wales 

to have a chance of going to Mexico 

dreams of glory spurred us on 

but the Welsh scored early that night 

and try as we might we couldn’t break them down 

this was a good side we were playing 

this dragon breathed fire 

and would not be slain easily 

this was going to be tough 

a draw would be enough 

but it didn’t look like coming 

then the boss decided to bring Cooper on 

the winger had has critics 

some said he’s inconsistent 

my Rangers supporting relatives amongst them

but Stein knew this night would need 

that special something and Cooper had it 

when the opportunity came he grabbed it 

scoring the penelty that levelled the game 

as Stein jumped up to celebrate 

fate played a cruel hand 

as he collapsed falling to ground in distress 

we held our collective breath as the manager lay on the ground 

the game was played out but the result now rendered meaningless 

in shock we heard the news 

our national team manager had died 

this was the night a nation cried 

fans of different teams united in grief 

divisions put aside to allow time to mourn

as a Celtic fan I broke when I heard you’ll never walk alone 

the song played before every home game 

somehow I knew that night things could never be the same 

this was a man respected by all sides in the game 

he transcended team colours 

in a way few have managed before or since 

to him it wasn’t just the winning 

it was about how you played 

his teams were built on flair and imagination .

to him this was the only way that made any sense 

his philosophy that attack was the best form of defence 

may have come as a shock to some 

but this was how he viewed the game

you had to win and entertain the crowd 

in a way that made your supporters 

proud of the colours they wore 

he took lambs to Lisbon 

and made them roar with pride 

the side some claimed had no hope  came home as lions and champions of Europe 

he outfoxed the pride of Italy 

with a display of attacking ability 

never seen before or since 

It was this tacticial genius 

which lead him to manage Celtic to nine league titles in a row 

and eventually get the call for his country 

winning ugly was never his way 

his teams played in a certain style 

to bring smiles to the faces of the fans 

It was the mark of the man 

his signitute if you will 

that skill had to be combined with work ethic 

and you had to represent your team on and off the field 

a principled man he never yielded 

to the lure the false god 

that money can often be

I gave free flow to the tears that came

to hold back would have been pointless 

like trying to stop the rain or stem the tide

It would have been wrong and on hearing the song

I knew my eyes would run like rivers 

on the night a nation cried together 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

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