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Melrose: What Jock did was more than Par for the course

HARRY MELROSE witnessed at close quarters how Jock Stein was both a genius in the dugout and a shrewd operator off the park.

Harry Melrose played  under the 'revolutionary' Jock Stein
Harry Melrose played under the 'revolutionary' Jock Stein

Melrose - part of the celebrated Dunfermline team that Stein led to Scottish Cup glory in 1961 - recalled how the hugely successful manager arranged to return to Fife for a pre-season friendly with Celtic to facilitate Kenny Dalglish's move to Liverpool in 1977.

Sitting in the suite at East End Park that is named after his one-time mentor, former winger Melrose reminisced about Stein ahead of a documentary about the man by purpleTV that is due to air on BBC ALBA on Monday at 9pm.

Stein outfoxed the prying media, Melrose recalled, to help Dalglish seal his record breaking £440,000 switch to Anfield from Celtic.

Melrose said: "He was a great man and so easy to approach if you needed a bit of advice. He was also a shrewd man and I remember he phoned me once during the summer when I was Dunfermline manager.

"He said, 'how would you like a pre-season game with Celtic?' I said 'that would be great'. But he had an ulterior motive; there had been word about Dalglish moving on and the press were at him all the time. He came through here and he went away with Kenny Daglish at half-time to sign for Liverpool.

"It was a chance to get the press off his back and get out of Glasgow with Kenny Dalglish. It was good for us but he had another motive."

Dunfermline was Stein's first port of call in a managerial journey that would lead to him masterminding Celtic's historic European Cup triumph in 1967.

He arrived at Dunfermline in 1960 and immediately transformed a side that was struggling in the league into Scottish Cup winners.

Many memorable European nights followed and Melrose, who plied his trade at Dunfermline for a total of seven years, reckons Stein was a pioneer when it came to mind games. "We had been drawn with Everton [in the Fairs Cup] and they were called the Bank of England team because they bought all their players; there were a couple of Scotsmen there as well.

"On one Monday morning after the draw had been made, he came stomping in. There was a notice board where he used to put the team up, he came up and put something up and walked out again. He had never done this before. We all went up and it was a headline out of one of the Glasgow papers and it said, 'Who are those country cousins? Never heard of Dunfermline'.

"That is what Everton were meant to have said. We said, 'we'll show them' and he didn't have to make a speech before the game against Everton; it was psychological and we won."

Melrose insists Stein brought a revolutionary approach. "In one particular game I was dispossessed by the full-back a couple of times and at half-time Jock said, 'it looks like you won't get past the boy', and I was down at that.

"But he said 'look, you're probably the bast passer of a ball at East End Park, use your strengths and pass it'. I probably wasn't the best passer but he said I was. He had that ability to get something out of you."

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