By Michael Gill
You wouldn’t have to be a football fan to name the captain and manager of Glasgow Celtic’s greatest team of all time – ‘The Lisbon Lions’
The late Billy McNeill captained the Celts and Jock Stein was the manager when they won the European Cup (now the Champions League) in 1967’ beating Inter Milan 2-1.
Fewer people would be able to name the assistant manager, but arguably Seán Fallon’s lifetime contribution to ‘the Green and White Brigade’ has not been matched by anyone before or since.
Seán was born in Sligo town in 1922 and from an early age it was obvious that he was a natural sportsman. He excelled in Gaelic football, soccer, swimming and boxing. Like many all rounder’s, he had to make a choice and it was a difficult one.
Sean’s father, John Fallon, spent time in Glasgow and like many an Irishman before him, gravitated towards Celtic Football Club. When he learned that the founder of the club was Brother Walfrid (Andrew Kerins), a Marist Brother from Ballymote, Co. Sligo, he became a fanatical supporter of the Celts.
When he returned from Glasgow, John founded a football club in his home town: Sligo Celtic. It was therefore no surprise that the young Seán chose soccer and also nurtured a childish dream that one day he would play for Glasgow Celtic.
Sean’s early progress as a footballer was steady but unspectacular. Between 1946 and 1950 he represented Longford Town, Sligo Distillery, Sligo Rovers and Glenavon whilst following his chosen trade as a Baker and Confectioner.
He was nearly 28-years-old when he was spotted by Jimmy McGrory, Celtic’s manager. Fearing that he would be perceived as being too old, Seán told McGrory that he was only twenty-three.
Seán made his first team debut for the Celts in the last game of the 1949- 50 season. His boyhood dreams had become a reality and he was to make 254 appearances for Celtic. He picked up one Scottish League medal and two Cup medals, as well as eight caps for Ireland during this time.
Jock Stein had joined Celtic as a player in 1951 and played alongside Seán in the centre of defence. They became close friends and realised that they had very similar ideas about how the game should be played.