The death of Celtic legend Sean Fallon – the man who spotted Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Sharp and a host of other world class talents – was announced at the weekend. Fallon, a former Celtic defender and assistant to European Cup winning manager Jock Stein, was an extraordinary talent spotter. He unearthed the backbone of Celtic’s legendary 1967 Lisbon Lions, and recruited Scottish household names like Simpson, Gemmell, Auld, Murdoch, Dalglish, McGrain, Macari, Connelly, Hay and McStay.
He later spotted gems like Graeme Sharp at Dumbarton. But it is the tale behind the recruitment of a teenage Dalglish – a childhood Rangers fan – which highlighted his devotion to duty. Bill Shankly rarely made mistakes. Yet when a fair-haired, 15-year-old schoolboy arrived at Anfield for a trial, he let a player who later was to turn Liverpool into a double-winning team slip through his fingers. It was August, 1966. England had just won the World Cup and Shankly was cementing the dynasty that was to make Liverpool one of the most successful sides in British football history. The youngster played one game, for the B team against Southport Reserves in the Lancashire League. Liverpool won 1-0, but the kid went home and heard nothing. A few years later when Shankly saw the lad play he was furious, blaming others at the club for the astonishing miss. Liverpool’s loss was Celtic’s gain.
Dalglish grew up supporting Rangers, but the call never came and Jock Stein sent his assistant, Sean Fallon, to see Dalglish and his parents at their home. Fallon drove there and left his wife Myra and their three children outside in the car while he went in, saying he wouldn’t be long. It was three hours before Fallon emerged with Dalglish’s signature and his wife was less than pleased. It wasn’t just that the kids were hungry and restless after being cooped up. It was the couple’s wedding anniversary!
Fallon made more than 250 Celtic appearances in the 1950s and assisted Jock Stein in the next two decades. He also won eight caps for Republic of Ireland and had a brief spell as Dumbarton manager, where he helped develop a teenage Graeme Sharp before his £120,000 switch to Everton. Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell described the news as “very, very sad” and said the club’s thoughts were with Fallon’s family.
“Sean Fallon was a Celtic legend who devoted much of his life to the club he loved,” he added.
“He was, of course, a supporter, first and foremost, and he was proud to have worn the green and white Hoops that he loved.
“He was an integral part of the club’s success, and also played a vital role in identifying talented young players who would go on to become great Celts.”
Fallon left Celtic with their best player of the 1980s and 90s in Paul McStay, and at Dumbarton maintained his knack for unearthing talent by signing the teenage Sharp and Owen Coyle. Fallon didn’t just benefit Merseyside football, though. Alex Ferguson, a long-standing friend, credits Fallon with having a major influence on the early stages of his managerial career.