Jock Stein was born just before 6pm on 5th October 1922 at 339 Glasgow Road, Burnbank in Lanarkshire, so he was 18 years of age when he joined Blantyre Victoria, a junior side, in 1938. Four years later, in November 1942, Stein joined Albion Rovers. At this time, he was also working as a miner, initially in the Bothwell Castle Nos 1 and 2 pits, then later in the Priory Pit.
Jock Stein spent 8 years with Albion Rovers. As a miner – a reserved occupation during the 2nd World War – he was in a position to make the first team pretty quickly, as 18 of the Rovers side was in the forces and the club would often have to rely on trialists or players on loan to make up the side.
As the decade of the 1940s came to a close, however, Jock Stein was becoming disillusioned with his lot, finding it hard to combine his pit work with that of a professional footballer, especially when some recurring injuries kept him out of the team. Then, he had a stroke of luck. Thanks to one of his team-mates at Albion Rovers, Stein was introduced to some officials from the Welsh non-league club Llanelly (as it was spelt in those days) and on 10th May 1950, he travelled down to South Wales and signed a contract which made him a full-time footballer for the first time.
Unfortunately, at the end of his first full season of 1950-51, Llanelly’s application to join the Football League was rejected, much to the disappointment of everyone in the area. As often happens after such moments, rumours flared up about the financial stability of the club and possible mis-handling of the clubs books. None of it was true but it was an unsettling time for the players and Stein’s situation was not helped by the unhappiness of his wife Jean, who wanted to return to Scotland. Then fate took a hand!
Back in Glasgow, chairman of Celtic Bob Kelly, a man who liked to get himself involved in the managerial affairs of the club, was looking for someone to bring on the younger players in the reserves, a player who could also be brought into the first team in case of injuries. He had a word with his wily and experienced assistant trainer Jimmy Gribben, who recalled the name of Jock Stein and put it forward to the chairman. Bob Kelly accepted his advice but neither man was quite sure of where Stein was at that time. Eventually, they found out that he was in Llanelly and made an approach to the Welsh club for him.
The offer was accepted, so on this day in 1951, Jock Stein travelled back to Scotland to sign for Celtic and a fabulous club career was under-way.