VICTOR Leonard has paid tribute to Celtic legend Sean Fallon, who has died.
The man from Sligo was an avid supporter of the Northern Ireland Milk Cup. Fallon, who was 90, backed the international youth football tournament because of his friendship and admiration for one of its founding fathers, the late Bertie Peacock.
Fallon made more than 250 Celtic appearances in the 1950s, many of them alongside Peacock 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.
Victor said: “Sean knew Bertie Peacock from his playing days at Celtic and kept in close touch with him when his career at Parkhead was over. Sean was an enthusiastic supporter of what the Milk Cup was all about, encouraging youth football.
“Sean and his wife Myra were honoured guests when Sir Alex Ferguson hosted the inaugural Bertie Peacock Foundation event in Belfast several years ago and enjoyed the occasion. It was a pleasure to have them back.
“Sean had been a surprise guest during the welcome ceremony at Coleraine Showgrounds for our 10th anniversary competition, introducing Bertie who officially opened the event that year.”
Victor added: “It was a lovely moment as Bertie did not expect it at all! We flew Sean over without breathing a word to anyone.
“Bertie held Sean in such high esteem and his face lit up when Sean appeared from nowhere, got on the stage and invited him to open the competition!”
Sean was a Celtic legend, working alongside Jock Stein, he helped to deliver the European Cup in Lisbon back in 1967, along with nine consecutive league titles and numerous other trophies.
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 was influential in bringing players such as Tommy Gemmell, Danny McGrain and Kenny Dalglish to Celtic and manager Neil Lennon said meeting him was “a privilege”.
“He was always a very humble man when you met him, even though his achievements in the game were extraordinary,” added Lennon.
“Despite the fact he was getting on in years, he still had a really sharp brain and a sharp wit.
“He was always very fit looking and kept himself immaculately dressed. It’s just a great loss for us because he’s an icon and very, very popular with everyone around the club.
“I was pretty sad to hear the news this morning. He will be sorely missed and my thoughts go out to his family. It was fantastic to be with him as he unfurled the flag at the start of the season.
“Sean was an icon and I couldn’t think of anyone better to do it for us. The last time I saw him I did the [125th] anniversary photograph and he was still in great form then.
“He had a good innings but I’m very sorry he’s passed away. It’s just a sad day for the club. Sean was a long-time servant and a great servant for the club. He was a real gentleman.”
It was a fitting tribute that Sean unveiled the championship flag at Celtic Park back in August and the welcome he received from supporters spoke volumes.