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Football's greats remember Fallon

Today would have been the 92nd birthday of Sean Fallon, the Celtic legend who passed away last January.

In the year before he died, Jock Stein's former assistant - one of the finest talent-spotters in the history of the game - finally committed to paper the story of his incredible life and career.

And besides the Iron Man's memories, his authorised biography also included insights from many of the men he influenced, including some of the biggest names in British football.

“Sean was a bit more forthcoming with me than Jock Stein in the early days. Jock’s personality meant he was a bit more secretive and sort of kept you down there a little bit, even as a young man. Sean was a brilliant help to me as an aspiring manager, and we were close ever since.”
Sir Alex Ferguson

“I think every footballer looks back on people who were important to their development, and Sean was certainly very important to me. Really, he was the man who started it all off for me.”
Kenny Dalglish

“Big Jock needed Sean. The truth was that he supplied everything the big man wasn’t particularly good at. He was the best assistant manager we could have wished for.”
Billy McNeill

“What Sean and Jock Stein did was take good players and turn them into great players. And more than that, they set the standards, the values, for the entire club.”
David Moyes

“I loved Sean Fallon. In fact, I didn't understand how anyone couldn’t love the guy. He was just a great man.”
Danny McGrain

“Sean Fallon embodied all that is good about Celtic: its values, its roots in Ireland, in Sligo, its pride in Scotland, its competitiveness, its sense of fair play, its decency, its leadership... you could go on and on.”
Peter Lawwell

“He ... seems to slip under the radar at times when you talk about Celtic’s history, and that shouldn’t be the case at all. There are a lot of people who owe him a great debt of gratitude for giving them their start in the game, and Celtic owe him even more.”
Neil Lennon

“If you asked me to name Celtic’s best-ever assistant, it would be Sean Fallon. I've never came across anyone who played the role better.”
Davie Hay

“People remember Sean as this devoted, wholehearted Celtic, but he was an awful lot more than that. His ability spot players, and his abilities of perception and analysis, weren’t picked up and appreciated the way they should have been."
Brian Quinn

*'Sean Fallon: Celtic's Iron Man' is available on Amazon and all high street stores; it is also available as an ebook in all formats

Pep Confidential: Inside Guardiola's first season at Bayern Munich

IN October 2014, we will co-publish with Arena Sport Pep Confidential: Inside Guardiola's first season at Bayern Munich, by Spanish journalist Martí Perarnau.

You might have read 'insider accounts' before. But not like this. This is unlimited access to one of the biggest clubs in the world, granted by one of the best coaches in the world.

In an exclusive extract from the book, Perarnau explains it in his own words.

The next major surprise is that Pep has decided to grant me a first-hand, in-depth insight into the team’s work. I had hoped that a controlled level of access, the odd cup of coffee with him, and limited attendance at training sessions would give me enough material for the book. But Guardiola’s unexpected offer changes all my plans.

Free access means that I will be privy to everything that goes on. I’ll be able to observe his coaching methods up close and witness the decision making and planning process as it happens.

Essentially I will be spending months at the heart of this elite team with complete access to an enormous amount of internal information. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that the champions of Europe and the most successful coach of the decade would grant me such a privilege. Pep only asks for one thing in return: my total discretion during the season.

"You can write about everything you see and be as critical as you like in the book, but during the season please don’t talk to the outside world about what you witness inside."

I am enormously grateful despite the fact that my journalistic skills will have to be put on hold for a while. For one year I will live through all of the team’s vicissitudes. The highs and lows, the injuries, the tactics, the line-ups, the periods of sickness, the good behaviour and bad, the jokes, the praise, the worries, the transfer plans … I will know it all, yet the journalist in me will have no voice until the day I pour everything I have learned into this book.

The day Celtic tried to sign Di Stefano

IN 1964, and completely out of the blue, Celtic attempted to sign a 36-year-old. He also happened to be the greatest player of his generation.

The approach for Alfredo di Stefano came four years after he had wowed Hampden with a hat-trick in Real Madrid’s legendary 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960.

That remarkable match, which Fallon had watched alongside Stein, was the fifth successive European Cup final in which the Argentine had played, scored and emerged victorious.

Reserve centre-half John Cushley, who spoke Spanish, had been dispatched with Jimmy McGrory to Madrid, supposedly with the aim of bringing home a legend. But it was a plan with a significant flaw.

“Di Stefano had already gone to his holiday home in the north of Spain,” said Cushley. “In the end, we had to track him down on the phone. Mr McGrory was telling me ‘Offer him this’.

"I couldn’t believe the figures – it was more than the rest of us put together were getting. But in any case, Di Stefano said that he had already agreed a deal with Espanyol, so it was a bit of a wasted trip.”

Normally thrifty to the point of notoriety, Celtic had promised the Argentinian £200-per-game, twice what the highest-paid player in Britain at the time, Johnny Haynes, was earning.

Yet the fact they had arranged for three journalists to accompany McGrory and Cushley convinced Fallon that it was a trip geared more towards obtaining headlines than acquiring a star player.

"I always thought the Di Stefano thing was a publicity stunt. I would have loved nothing more if he’d said yes because it would have been tremendous to have someone like that at Celtic. But the board knew there was no chance. If he had accepted their offer, they would have had a heart attack.

There just wasn’t money for a player like that floating around at the time. It was a story that got the fans excited but that wasn’t a good time for the club and I felt it was put out there to relieve a bit of pressure."

*'Sean Fallon: Celtic's Iron Man' is available on Amazon and all high street stores; it is also available as an ebook in all formats

Like this? Read these!

The day Cruyff almost signed for Dumbarton

Sean, Jock and lost afternoons in Ferrari's

How Stein almost sold Jinky

Postcard from Belo Horizonte

Alan Pattullo is an award-winning sports writer for The Scotsman. Here, he describes the behind-the-scenes thrill of watching Brazil play Chile in Belo Horizonte.


WHEN you think about it, not that many people still alive can say they have seen Brazil play in their own backyard in the World Cup finals. Or at least, this was the case before the start of the current tournament.

A reputed 200,000 packed the Maracana in 1950 to see them lose the final, and many thousands of others watched the previous five matches in the competition.

But these witnesses would need to be well over 70 now at least. So for those lucky enough to be present for one of Brazil’s four matches thus far in the 2014 edition of the tournament, it truly has felt significant.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to see the Selecao’s eventual victory on penalties against Chile on Saturday as the stakes began to get higher for the hosts. If Brazil lost, then that was it. The party would need to go on without them. And when will they next get the chance to win it in here in their own land, in front of their own people? Not probably in most of our lifetimes.

The day started with the sound of a young child in the room next door providing the match commentary of the goals he hoped Brazil would score later that afternoon. Hearing such excitement through the wall as I waited for an elevator made for a sweet way to greet the day. ‘Goooaaaaaallllll!' he was exclaiming, in the style we all know so well.

From that moment on it was the richest of football and even cultural experiences. Breakfast was a sea of yellow shirts, whole families sitting around tables in Brazil shirts. Those with an individualist bent had on the blue away top. But it was mostly yellow, inside the hotel and outside in the streets, where hours before kick-off the supporters were en route to the stadium.

Belo Horizonte. In a football obsessed land, this is the crucible right now; both major city teams are current holders of major honours – Cruzeiro are league champions and Atletico Mineiro lifted the Copa Libertadores titles in 2013. So the intensity was ratcheted up further. And when Brazil edged ahead, well, although I have heard the acclaim when goals are scored at Ibrox, Parkhead, Hampden and even Dens Park, this really was something else entirely.

Near the end, as Neymar approached the spot to take his side’s fifth penalty, and the rest of us tried to comprehend just what responsibility he was taking on, I turned to my left and caught the eye of an Irish journalist. We had not spoken a word to each other, lost in our own worlds of needing to file reports as soon as we had a result, whenever that was going to be. We just broke out in smiles, as if to say: this is utterly crazy, but what a privilege.

It was fraught all right, for journalists as well as he players – although of course we did not have the hopes of nearly 200 million people resting on our shoulders. It was also utterly, bloody brilliant.

You can read Alan's World Cup reports here and follow him on Twitter

BackPage picks - 27.06.14

Every Friday, we're going to share three things that have distracted us from the madness of the previous week here at BackPage Towers.

We're gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it; if you don't, send it right back.

This week we have climbed aboard the US national team bandwagon. Digest the three picks below and join us on that bandwagon. All together now: U! S! A! U! S! A!"...

1) It's hard to know what to say about this. If internet legend Teddy Goalsevelt leading a sing-a-long is not enough, then up pops Will Ferrell. If you're not standing on your desk chanting "I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN" by the end of this video then, frankly, you're not human. Will Ferrell and Teddy Goalsevelt

2) “You Americans. You act like it’s New Year’s Eve going to a soccer game.” Sports illustrated have done it again. Wonderful piece - both editorially and design-wise - from Chris Ballard on the growth of US Soccer fandom over the past 20 years.

3) And, finally, here's the Empire State Building last night after the US national team advanced to the last 16....





BackPage Picks 20.06.14

BackPage Picks 13.06.14




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