Sean Fallon: Iron Man Doc of the Week

Sean Fallon: Iron Man

Sean ‘Iron Man’ Fallon made 254 appearances for Celtic and played eight times for the Republic of Ireland during the 1950s before later becoming assistant manager to the legendary Jock Stein. This is the story of one of Celtic’s great unsung heroes. BT Sport 1, Thur, May 25th 22.00.

Still beloved by the Hoops faithful, very few people outside the club he served for almost 30 years even know his name, but Sligo-born Sean Fallon is a pivotal figure in the legend of Celtic Football Club. He joined when the club was in the doldrums in the early 1950s and was there on its greatest day – May 25th 1967 – when the so-called ‘Lisbon Lions’ beat Inter Milan 2-1 to become the first British club to win the European Cup.

Based on the acclaimed book ‘Sean Fallon: Celtic’s Iron Man’ by Stephen Sullivan, this False Nine and BT Sport Films collaboration explores the remarkable life and times of the man who, after being banned from playing gaelic football, realised a lifelong dream to play for Celtic. Using interviews, archive footage and animated sequences, we follow his journey from Sligo to Glasgow and beyond. Fallon is portrayed by an actor which means we also get plenty of quotes and reminiscences from the man himself along the way.

Playing days

Fallon’s love affair with Celtic began following a chance meeting with the son of club legend Jimmy McMenemy who saved Fallon's sister Lilly from drowning. The pair got talking which resulted in McMenemy sending Fallon a Celtic shirt and a book on the club’s history. He scored two goals for his county in a National League quarter-final tie against Kerry before going on to play for Longford Town, Sligo Rovers and Glenavon, but his heart belonged to Celtic. After being spotted by a scout, he made his debut for the Hoops at Clyde in the last game of the 1949–50 season. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful association.

Within a year he had helped them win the Scottish Cup as they beat Motherwell 1–0 in the final. He scored in the 1953 final as they beat Aberdeen on their way to a coveted league and cup double. Another highlight of his playing career was the 7-1 defeat of Old Firm rivals Rangers in the 1958 cup final, but he was dogged by injury and was eventually forced to retire later that same year.

Lisbon Lions

Fallon immediately joined the club’s backroom staff and quickly established a reputation as an adroit scout of burgeoning talent. Among the famous names he brought in were Kenny Dalglish, David Hay, Danny McGrain, Paul McStay and Packie Bonner along with several of the ‘Lisbon Lions’ who triumphed over Inter almost half a century ago, among them skipper Billy McNeill.

“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. He was just a hugely important part of the football club,” Dalglish later said. He also served a mentor to a young Alex Ferguson who remembers the huge impact that Fallon had on him in his early years. “Sean was always a crutch,” the future Manchester United manager explained. “There are people you depend on for advice and he was one of those. He was brilliant for me. I think he was one of life’s wonders; a truly great guy. He was a rock of a man.”

Serving as assistant to Jock Stein, Fallon helped Celtic to nine league titles in succession between 1965 and 1974. His was the quiet, conciliatory voice to Stein’s brusque hard man persona. Together they wrote their names into Celtic legend. He took over as care-taker manager when Stein was seriously injured in a car crash in 1975 and later managed Dumbarton. But he always maintained ties with the club he loved and was given the honour of unfurling the championship flag at Celtic Park in August 2012 at the beginning of the new season.

He died in January 2013 at the age of 90.

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