Bygones: Stein heads home after unremarkable 44 days in charge of Leeds United

IT was brief and unremarkable and lasted a mere 44 days.

Jock Stein’s time at Leeds United will represent a small footnote in the club’s history, with the managerial grandee barely having time to ingratiate himself with Whites fans before heading back to his native Scotland to manage the national team.

The ex-Celtic manager, unhappy at being pushed into a backseat at Parkhead where his main area of responsibility revolved around running Celtic pools – a club-run lottery scheme – had seemingly found a challenge to whet his appetite at Leeds some forty years ago in August 1978.

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But the fire soon dimmed with Stein’s wife struggling to settle and the 55-year-old increasingly aware to the possibility of the Scotland job soon being available.

Leeds, Elland Road, 22nd August 1978 - 

Jock Stein in unveiled...Leeds, Elland Road, 22nd August 1978 - 

Jock Stein in unveiled...
Leeds, Elland Road, 22nd August 1978 - Jock Stein in unveiled...

And so it transpired, with Stein named as Ally MacLeod’s replacement on October 5, nine days after his predecessor’s resignation.

After failing to tempt Lawrie McMenemy, Ron Saunders and Don Howe to Elland Road, Leeds turned to Stein as they found what they viewed as a long-term replacement for Jimmy Armfield.

Stein’s first game in charge ended in a 3-2 loss to Leeds’s arch-rivals Manchester United before wins over Wolves and Chelsea.

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League defeats to Manchester City and Tottenham and two insipid draws with West Brom continued the inconsistent start to Stein’s tenure and all the while, speculation raged that MacLeod’s reign at Hampden Park was in grave peril following Scotland’s deflating showing at that summer’s World Cup in Argentina.

...but he lasted only 44 days....but he lasted only 44 days.
...but he lasted only 44 days.

MacLeod went on to stand down on September 26, with Stein soon broaching the subject of the Scotland job with revered BBC Scotland broadcaster Archie Macpherson and other journalists known to him.

In his biography, Macpherson recalled. “This was a very unhappy man (Stein) I was speaking to, morose, slowly spoken, husky.

“It was then he came up with what was on his mind. ‘Tell London that you can say something about the Scotland job and me… you could say something to the effect that you believe I would be interested in going back to Scotland… you can’t say you have been talking to me. Just play it like you are confident I would take the job. Make it sound like the SFA are being a bit slow on this.’”

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Macpherson and his fellow journalists did what was asked and the story broke, ahead of Stein later speaking on the radio to deny the reports: “That’s just Archie Macpherson flying a kite.”

But the seeds had been sown with the SFA, conscious of the clamour for Stein to ‘come home’, soon getting in touch with Leeds.

Initially Whites chairman Manny Cussins refused permission. But the fact that Stein had agreed a three-year contract with Leeds despite never signing it meant that a return to Scotland was a near-certainty.

Speculation raged in the build-up to Stein’s final match in charge, a 3-0 win over Birmingham.

Cussins attempted to keep hold of Stein by offering him a £35,000 lump sum and a luxury home, but his manager’s mind was made up and Stein was gone.