Johnstone in Amsterdam in 1971
|Full name||James Connolly Johnstone|
|Date of birth||30 September 1944|
|Place of birth||Viewpark, Scotland|
|Date of death||13 March 2006(aged 61)|
|Place of death||Uddingston, Scotland|
|Height||1.57 m (5 ft 2 in)|
|Playing position||Outside right|
|1975||San Jose Earthquakes||10||(0)|
|1964–1970||Scottish League XI||4||(0)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
James Connolly "Jimmy" Johnstone (30 September 1944 – 13 March 2006), nicknamed "Jinky", was a Scottish football player. Johnstone was best known for his time with Celtic, and was voted their best ever player by the club's fans in 2002. He scored 129 goals for Celtic in 515 appearances.
Early life & career
Johnstone was the youngest of five children born to Matthew and Sarah Johnstone. He grew up in the family home on Old Edinburgh Road in Viewpark, South Lanarkshire, and he was educated at St Columba's primary school in Viewpark and then at St John's secondary school in Uddingston. In 2003, Johnstone stated that he was a Catholic.
His footballing ability first came to note at primary school, playing for the St Columba's team that won three trophies between 1953–54. The team at his secondary school, St John's, were less able but their Physical Education teacher, Tommy Cassidy, was a friend of Sammy Wilson who played for Celtic at the time and had scored in Celtic's 7–1 win over Rangers in the 1957 Scottish League Cup Final. Cassidy used his connections to get Johnstone a role as a ball boy at Celtic.
At home, he used to dribble around milk bottles every day in the hallway for hours to perfect his dribbling skills. On reading that Stanley Matthews used to walk to Blackpool's ground wearing heavy boots to strengthen his leg muscles, Johnstone began wearing pit boots and would sprint and play football in them. He later said that this "probably added about three yards on to my pace."
Despite the thrill of being involved with Celtic as a ball boy, Johnstone wanted to play football. As a result, he left Celtic to play for his local Boys Guild team. As well as playing locally, the team travelled down to play Manchester United's boys team. Johnstone's ability caught the eye of the English giants, but upon his return to Scotland, Celtic scout John Higgins persuaded him to sign for Celtic. In order to gain experience, he was farmed out for a spell to junior club Blantyre Celtic.
Johnstone made his first team debut for Celtic on 27 March 1963 in a 6–0 defeat away against Kilmarnock in the league. His next appearance came a month later away against Hearts. He was again on the losing side, Celtic losing 4–3, but scored his first senior goal. Despite the defeats, Johnstone's performances won him a place in the starting XI for the Scottish Cup Final on 4 May 1963 against Rangers. The young winger turned in a fine performance, helping Celtic to a credible 1–1 draw with his confident dribbling. He also scored a goal but it was disallowed due to a foul moments earlier by team-mate John Hughes. Inexplicably, Johnstone was dropped for the replay and Celtic were completely outclassed by Rangers who ran out comfortable 3–0 winners.
The following season saw Johnstone establish himself as a regular in the side. He played in 25 league games, scoring six goals. He also helped Celtic reach the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup, scoring against FC Basel in a 5–0 win at Parkhead in the first round, and then scoring against MTK Budapest in a 3–0 win in the first leg of the semi-final. Celtic, however, lost 4–0 in the return match in Hungary and were knocked out on aggregate.
Celtic were struggling throughout the 1960s until Jock Stein arrived at the club in 1965. By this time Johnstone was struggling to hold down a regular spot in the first team. On arrival at Celtic, Stein had doubts about Johnstone, considering him to be too much of an individual player to the overall detriment of the team, and left him out of the team for the 1965 Scottish Cup Final. Johnstone soon won Stein round with his skill, and won his first winner's medal on 23 October 1965 when he played in Celtic's 2–1 win over Rangers in the Scottish League Cup Final. His 32 league appearances and nine goals over the course of the season helped Celtic to win their first league title in 12 years. Johnstone also helped Celtic reach their second European semi-final, scoring twice against Go Ahead Eagles en route, before losing 2–1 on aggregate to Liverpool in the Cup Winners' Cup.
Johnstone was one of the "Lisbon Lions", the team that won the then European Cup for Celtic in 1967. In an early round tie against Nantes, Johnstone's trickery on the wing saw him dubbed "The Flying Flea" by the French press, whilst his performances over the course of the season saw him finish third in the European Footballer of the Year award.
Two weeks after their European Cup win, Celtic played Real Madrid on 7 June 1967 in a testimonial match for the now retired Alfredo Di Stefano. In front of over 100,000 fans at the Bernabéu Stadium, the sides engaged in a keenly fought contest which saw Bertie Auld and Real Madrid's Amancio sent off. Di Stefano played for the first 15 minutes, but it was Jimmy Johnstone who stole the show with an exhilarating performance that had even the Spanish supporters chanting "Olé!" throughout the game in appreciation of his skill. Johnstone capped an outstanding performance by playing the pass to Bobby Lennox for the only goal in a 1–0 win for Celtic.
Johnstone had a morbid fear of flying which Jock Stein used to great effect on one occasion. Ahead of the first leg of a European tie against Red Star Belgrade at Parkhead in November 1968, Stein told Johnstone that if Celtic won by three goals he wouldn't have to travel to Yugoslavia for the second leg. Johnstone went on to produce an outstanding performance on the night, scoring twice and providing assists for the other three goals in a 5–1 win.
In all he made 308 League appearances for Celtic, scoring 82 goals. He also played another 207 times for them in the Scottish Cup, League Cup and in Europe, for an overall total of 515 matches.
He made his international debut on 3 October 1964 in a British Home Championship match against Wales, in place of Rangers' winger Willie Henderson. He was involved in the move which led to Scotland's second goal, albeit the match ended in a 3–2 win for the Welsh. Johnstone's next cap came later that same month in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park against Finland. Scotland won 3–1 but Johnstone's performance was unimpressive, with his passing described as "lacking accuracy." Johnstone did not play for Scotland again until 2 April 1966, when he scored his first two international goals in a 4–3 defeat against England at Hampden Park. The first goal came, with Scotland trailing 4–1, when he latched on to a pass from Denis Law and used his pace and power to run past the English defence and beat goalkeeper Gordon Banks from close range. He pulled another goal back for Scotland when he chased a floated ball towards goal from a Jim Baxter free kick and from very close range scored with a powerful shot off the underside of the bar. Johnstone, along with Denis Law, was reported as being one of Scotland's best performers in the game, and his play resulted in England's Nobby Stiles being booked for a crushing tackle on him. Johnstone continued to play only sporadically for Scotland, and didn't score his next international goal until 22 October 1969 in a World Cup qualifier away against West Germany, Scotland losing 3–2.
In May 1974, during the build-up to the 1974 FIFA World Cup and days before a British Home Championship match against England at Hampden, Johnstone and his other Scotland team-mates took part in a drinking session at their hotel in Largs, Ayrshire. In the early hours of the morning the group headed for the sea-shore, with Johnstone deciding to go out in a rowing boat. However, the boat had no rowlocks to take the oars and Johnstone found himself being taken out to sea by the tide. Stranded out at sea, the Coastguard had to rescue Johnstone and the incident dominated the press headlines for days afterwards. Despite the embarrassing headlines, Johnstone went on to turn in an outstanding performance for Scotland against England days later, helping them to a 2–0 win. Johnstone was part of the Scotland squad that travelled to West Germany for the World Cup in the summer of 1974, but he didn't play in any of their three games.
Motor neurone disease and death
Johnstone died in March 2006. The last person to call him was old Rangers rival, Willie Henderson, who had become a firm friend of Johnstone. Thousands of Celtic fans, and fans of many other clubs, including those of arch-rivals Rangers paid tribute to his memory outside Celtic Park on St Patrick's Day, the day of his funeral service. Tributes were paid to Johnstone before the 2006 Scottish League Cup Final, played between Celtic and Dunfermline. There was a minute of applause before the game and the entire Celtic squad wore the number 7 on their shorts in his honour.
In 2011 a statue of Jimmy Johnstone and a memorial garden were created on the site at his former school, close to his home, on the Old Edinburgh Road, Viewpark, Uddingston. The garden was opened by Jimmy Johnstone's wife, family and some of the surviving members of the 'Lisbon Lions' team. The bronze life size statue was made by sculptor John McKenna.
- Scottish League (9): 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1974–75
- Scottish Cup (4): 1966–67, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1973–74
- Scottish League Cup (5): 1965-66, 1966–67, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1974–75
- European Cup : Winner 1967, Runner-up 1970
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- A Bhoy's Life - DVD, 2006 Narrated by Billy Connolly. John Williams Studios. 2006.