This is the story of one of Celtic’s great unsung heroes. Sean ‘Iron Man’ Fallon made 254 appearances for the club during the 1950s before later becoming assistant manager to legendary Hoops boss Jock Stein. BT Sport 2, Wed, June 19th 10.30pm
Very few people outside the club he served for almost 30 years even know Sean Fallon’s name, but he is still beloved by the Hoops faithful. Sligo-born Fallon is a pivotal figure in the legend of Celtic Football Club. He joined when they were in the doldrums in the early 1950s and was still there on the greatest day in its history – May 25th 1967 – when the aptly-monikered ‘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 proxy quotes and reminiscences from the man himself along the way.
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. From that day on it became his burning ambition to pull on the famous green and white jersey.
But Fallon’s journey to Parkhead was not without its twists and turns. He initially enjoyed a hugely successful sporting career at home and 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 Celtic dream became reality when he was spotted by a scout and asked to sign for the club. He made his debut at Clyde in the last game of the 1949–50 season. It was the beginning of what would be 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.
He also won eight Republic of Ireland caps.
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. He also recruited 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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