Former Hibs doctor reveals he convinced Jock Stein to take Celtic job

Gordon Batters was doctor for Hibs at the time Jock Stein was manager. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Gordon Batters was doctor for Hibs at the time Jock Stein was manager. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IF not for former Hibernian doctor Gordon Batters, one of Scotland’s greatest football managers – Jock Stein – may never have ended up at Celtic at all.

Stein’s achievements are etched in sporting folklore.

He became the first manager of a British side to win the European Cup, achieving the feat with Celtic in 1967.

The centre-half also guided them to nine successive Scottish League championships between 1966 and 1974.

However, little known is the fact that Stein agonised over taking up the offer to become manager of Celtic – a secret that has been locked away for decades with Mr Batters.

These days the 98-year-old GP is living at Royal Blind’s Braeside House aged care home in Liberton, having lost his sight just two years ago.

But during the 1960s he was a man of influence at Hibs, with the experienced East Linton GP revealing he had been a close confidante of Stein during the manager’s successful two-year stint at the Edinburgh club.

Mr Batters said: “I worked for Hibs for about 14 years.

“It was the end of the Famous Five period. Hugh Shaw resigned as manager and we had several different fellows after him, but they never lasted long. Then we had John Stein. You’ll know him as Jock – he hated the name, so we called him John.

“He and I were always quite friendly. One morning I was phoned up twice – one was from John himself to ask if I was coming up to the club. The other was from his wife, Jean.

“When I went up to the club he’d just been visited by Mr Kelly from Celtic, who had offered him the job as a manager. But he’d only been 11 months with Hibs and he felt a bit guilty at saying yes. He asked me what he should do.

“I said ‘John, you’re a Celtic man, you’ll regret it if you don’t go’, especially with terms such as the ones he dictated to me. He was offered freedom to sign [who he wanted].

“Jean was very much against it, but I said ‘he is a Celtic man and should go’ . That’s one of the things I shouldn’t be telling you.”

Opened in 1999, Braeside House is an award-winning care home for older people who are registered blind or visually impaired. The service is run by Royal Blind – the charity being supported in this year’s Evening News Christmas Appeal.

The campaign is aiming to raise as much as possible to help provide vital equipment and funding for the many services the charity provides.

Mr Batters, originally from East Linton, is one of about 70 residents living there.