On this day 30th September 1944 James Connelly Johnstone was born.
On this day 30th September 1944 James Connelly Johnstone was born .
In 2002 Jimmy Johnstone was voted by Celtic supporters as the greatest ever Celtic player. To fully understand why `The Wee Man` was given this tremendous accolade we have to go back to his beginning.
Jimmy Johnstone had been kicking a ball for as long as he could remember, from a very early age he spent hours upon hours playing in streets and public parks, sometimes alone, sometimes with large groups of other youngsters and occasionally with his older brother Pat `Blondie` Johnstone. Pat was a fine player himself and Celtic were rumoured to be watching him closely, unfortunately Pat was injured playing for his local boys guild team and the resultant cartilage problem effectively ended his career. Years later Jimmy would say that he can remember the disappointment on his father's face (Matt Johnstone) when Pat suffered this injury and maybe, subconsciously, this drove Jimmy Johnstone on.
Jimmy Johnstone was first discovered at the ripe old age of 8 years old by a teacher, John Crines. Crines eventually persuaded the shy Jimmy Johnstone to join the school team St Columba. With Jimmy Johnstone in the team St Columba's became almost unstoppable and won every competition they entered. Upon moving to high school, St John's, Jimmy Johnstone also helped their school team to previously unseen heights.
During a St John's trip to Manchester to play in a tournament Jimmy Johnstone was made aware of his first footballing hero, Sir Stanley Matthews. Jimmy Johnstone was mesmerised by Matthews' ability with a ball and upon returning home quickly obtained a copy of his autobiography. Jimmy Johnstone would spend hours copying the techniques Mathews had used in his early years to perfect his ball skills. Basically this involved laying out dozens of milk bottles and dribbling the ball round them over and over again.
It helped because during the next St John's trip to Manchester, he was spotted by a Manchester United scout by the name of Wishbone. Fortunately for Celtic fate decreed and the chaplain of St John's, a Frank Cairney, who was a keen Celtic supporter, threw United off the track by informing them that Jimmy Johnstone was keen to join Celtic. Cairney immediately contacted a Celtic scout he knew, John Higgins, of United's interest and Jimmy Johnstone was invited to train with Celtic two nights a week.
Jimmy Johnstone trained with Celtic twice a week for a year and on the 7th October 1961 he made his debut for the reserves against St Johnstone in a 4-2 win. Jimmy scored one and made the other three. Watching the game was then Celtic manager Jimmy McGrory who signed Jimmy Johnstone that very night. Incidentally Tommy Gemmell also signed that night, a player he was to be intrinsically linked with through the rest of his life, famously on-field and mischievously off-field.
As was customary in those days Jimmy Johnstone was farmed out to a junior club, Blantyre Celtic. This was supposed to be for a year but such was his ability he was chosen to play for Junior Scotland against Junior Northern Ireland.
Fate would decree that legendary Celtic scout Jimmy Gribben was watching the game and Gribben immediately suggested to McGrory that Jimmy Johnstone be recalled to Celtic.
Jimmy Johnstone would have to wait two years for his first team debut though, that came at Rugby Park Kilmarnock. Celtic lost 6-0 that day and there are few Celtic fans who could have contemplated the impression Jimmy Johnstone would make on their lives in the next 12 years. Jimmy had to wait another month before his next game, away to Hearts in a 4-3 defeat although this brought the first of Jimmy Johnstone`s 130 Celtic goals.
He retained his place for the next game, the Scottish Cup final against Rangers, which ended in a 1-1 draw with Jimmy Johnstone earning rave reviews in the press for his display. He was inexplicably dropped for the replay which Celtic lost 3-0 and this brought out anger and frustration within the ranks of the Celtic support at a fractious time in Celtic's history. Although Jimmy McGrory was manager it was no secret that chairman Robert Kelly picked the team and his selections were often eccentric to say the least. Jimmy Johnstone was actually contemplating jacking it all in at this point. Things were though to change miraculously.
Jimmy Johnstone`s Celtic career would be very much stop start for a further two years, until Jock Stein arrived and transformed the club and Jimmy Johnstone along with it. Under Stein, Celtic became one of the most respected teams in Europe, integral to this success was Jimmy Johnstone himself. Although it has to be said that he was out of favour when Stein arrived, so much so that he was not named in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final victory at Hampden which launched the beginning of the successful Stein era.
By 1970 Celtic fans could boast that their man was the greatest player in Britain, eclipsing even the likes of Best, Charlton, Bremner and Ball. He proved it in the 1970 European Cup Semi final when he tore the much vaunted Leeds United defence apart over two legs. He was on song at Hampden in the second leg and tormented the great Leeds & English World Cup defenders, Charlton, Hunter and Cooper. This earned Celtic a place in the 1970 European Cup Final but they went down 2-1 to Feyenoord of Rotterdam. The Dutch side had a tight reign on Jimmy Johnstone that night and he could not make an impression which was a terrible disappointment to everyone at Celtic.
His final days at Celtic
Jimmy Johnstone`s Celtic career was over on 10th June 1975. The end was difficult. Rather than an amicable denouement for Jinky, Jock was at the end of his tether and things had come to a head. The chairman Desmond White told the shattered player he was being given a free transfer. Years later Jimmy Johnstone admitted it was like being handed down a death sentence, and he left in tears & tatters from that meeting. He bled Green & White but now it was all over. Jock Stein was exhausted and there was little more he could do.
Jimmy Johnstone was given a joint testimonial with Bobby Lennox when Celtic beat Manchester United 4-0 in May 1976. At the end of the game the wee man went on a final solo lap of honour in front 48,000 adoring fans. He stopped at the Jungle and threw his boots into the crowd which was a most fitting act as the fans in the Jungle had often witnessed his greatest performances on the wing. It was an emotional night and Jimmy was in tears and was joined by many Celtic fans who recalled his brilliance in a Celtic jersey. This was his last game for Celtic.
Many Celtic players have enjoyed a wonderful rapport with the fans but it's doubtful if there was any player more revered by the Celtic supporters than Jinky. Even after he finished playing his popularity with the supporters never waned and the feeling was reciprocated as he was always to be seen around Celtic Park on match days.
There are numerous further stories that can be told about Wee Jinky. Great film actor Robert Duvall (famous for “The Godfather” movies) got to know Jinky after working on a film in Glasgow and ranked Jinky as the greatest character he had ever met and he’d met so many. It was quite an accolade. Through Jinky's life, drink, women, laughter and pubbing were behind most of the mischief, and alongside close friend Tommy Gemmell they pushed things to the limit. He also loved to regale the public also, and had a smashing singing voice, even recorded a song titled “Passing Time” on the “B-side” to a club single.
One of the more infamous incidents was whilst on duty for the national side. After a late night’s drinking after training, a few of the boys were walking along the beach and saw a boat. They put Jinky into the boat and it set off. However there were no oars! The boys hurriedly got in another boat to get him but the boat had a leak in it! Jinky was lost and they had to get the guards out to get him. As this was before a big game v England the players were pilloried. However, we still won with a great performance by Jinky who after the match cheekily stuck two fingers up to the press gallery. A wee scamp!
Jinky was a lovable rogue and could exasperate even the most patient of men, but Jock was like a father and mentored and managed Jinky to the best of his ability. When you have a talent like Jinky on your hands, you can hardly turn them away, and Jock knew that better than any. Every manager has a great talent who doesn't follow the norm. Willie Maley had Tommy McInally, Jimmy McGrory had Charlie Tully, Jock had Jinky, O’Neill had Hartson and Strachan had Boruc. You always have a special case.
immy Johnstone had a mixed bag of memories at international level. In 1966 he had scored twice against England in a 4-3 defeat and despite playing well he was often inexplicably left out through the years. He amassed a paltry 23 caps through his career for Scotland.
Esteemed journalist Hugh McIlvanney put it as one of those mysteries best filed away but that would be shirking the truth.
He used to receive terrible verbal abuse from the Rangers end at Hampden on many occasions as the patrons in that era preferred the talents of Henderson. Jimmy always believed his greatest Scotland display was at Pittodrie when he ripped the Belgium defence to shreds and had the Aberdonian crowd in raptures that night in a 1-0 win.
In fairness, he was up against stiff competition for the number 7 jersey from the likes of Willie Henderson, Charlie Cooke, Willie Morgan, Peter Lorimer and Jimmy Smith but it is felt that he should still have gained more caps. He was the best of the lot.
Pathetically, in 1974 having destroyed the England defence at Hampden as Scotland won 2-0, he earned a place in the 22 man squad for the 1974 World Cup but then he was not chosen to play in any of Scotland's three matches.
He was so down-heartened with his treatment by the management and the Scotland support that actually he was said to have asked to be left out of matches. It's a sad indictment on the Scottish football support that they could have treated such a talent in the manner they did.
After leaving Celtic in 1975, Johnstone had spells with San Jose Earthquakes, Sheffield United, Dundee, Shelbourne and Elgin City but his first love was Celtic and he maintained close relations with the club for the rest of his life.
Motor Neurone Disease and his passing away
Jimmy Johnstone was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2002.
Posted by voc1967 on Monday 30 September 2019 - 09:45:47 | Comments (0) |
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