Jock Stein, the legendary Celtic manager, appointed a coach to its feeder club who was later jailed for abusing boys there, undermining claims that the two teams were “entirely separate”.
Stein recruited Frank Cairney to Celtic Boys Club in 1970, documents have revealed. Cairney, now 83, abused at least ten teenagers and was jailed for four years in February.
There is no suggestion that the Celtic manager had any idea that Cairney was a paedophile.
While expressing “regret and sorrow” for the victims of Cairney and three other boys’ club officials convicted since November of systemic abuse over 20 years, bosses at Celtic FC have insisted that it is not legally culpable. However, its position is at odds with reports in the boys’ club magazine, held in the archives of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, which reveal how coaches for the boys’ club were being selected by Celtic FC management.
A 1985 edition features an account of Stein, Celtic’s most celebrated manager, attending a gathering at St Columba’s Hall, Lanarkshire, in 1970. It states: “Jock told the audience that Frank Cairney would not be joining a senior club [Hamilton Academicals] as assistant manager. He was going to Celtic Park to work for him to develop young players for the Celtic Football Club.”
Cairney never worked for Celtic FC but immediately began coaching at the boys’ club — appearing to contradict Celtic’s claims that there was no connection between the two.
The magazine also carried an account of Stein attending an Old Firm derby and a boys’ club fixture on the same day, claiming that he saw no distinction between the two. It said: “He [Stein] showed his delight at the two good results the club got at two extreme levels.”
Jim Torbett, the boys’ club founder who has been jailed twice for abusing players, wrote: “Jock would never miss a boys’ club function.
“At one he described the Celtic Boys Club as an asset that Celtic FC could not put a price on. That asset lives on because of the big man’s [Stein’s] foresight.”
In 1966 Stein gave Torbett permission to use the name and crest of Celtic FC for the newly formed boys’ club.
Torbett, who is now 71, was jailed for two years in 1998 for abusing three former boys’ club players, including Alan Brazil, the broadcaster and former Scotland international, between 1967 and 1974.
During the trial Hugh Birt, a former boys’ club chairman who has since died, said that Torbett was kicked out by Stein in 1974 after allegations of sexual abuse were made. The police were not alerted and Celtic FC claimed that he left for “personal and business reasons”.
Torbett returned in 1978, after Stein departed as Celtic FC manager, and remained there until 1996, when claims that he abused boys appeared in the press. He was jailed for six years last November for molesting three boys in the 1980s and 1990s.
Stein died in 1985.
The boys’ club magazine published an image of members of the under-16 team in a communal bath when they won the league in the 1984-85 season. The same players were also shown parading a trophy, accompanied by Cairney and Torbett, on the pitch at Celtic Park.
Gerald King, 66, a former boys’ club chairman, published his address in the magazine, urging boys to send him photographs and accounts of “funny incidents” during training. Last December he was convicted of sexually assaulting five children while he was a teacher.
Celtic FC, which is conducting an internal investigation into abuse at the boys’ club, did not respond to a request for comment.
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