James Connolly 'Jimmy' Johnstone (30 September, 1944 – 13 March, 2006), was a Scottish footballer. Johnstone, known as "Jinky", was voted the greatest player ever to have played for Celtic by Celtic fans in 2002.
Born in Viewpark, North Lanarkshire, the youngest of 5 children, Jimmy grew up at the family home on Old Edinburgh Road, directly across from Robertson Park, the home of local Junior side Thorniewood United FC. After being spotted by the Celtic and Manchester United scouts at age 13, he chose to sign with Celtic and he played his first game for the senior team on 21 March, 1963. The coach of Saint John The Baptist school football team in Uddingston, in which Jimmy had excelled, was friendly with some of Celtic's coaching staff at that time and recommended the young player to the club.
Johnstone was one of the "Lisbon Lions", the team that won the European Cup for Celtic in 1967. Jock Stein had instilled in the team the conviction that they could beat the superstars of Internazionale, but Johnstone expected that Celtic would "get gubbed". He later recalled : "There they were, Facchetti, Domenghini, Mazzola, Cappellini; all six-footers wi' Ambre Solaire suntans, Colgate smiles and sleek-backed hair. Each and every wan o' them looked like yon film star Cesar Romero. They even smelt beautiful. And there's us lot - midgets. Ah've got nae teeth, Bobby Lennox hasnae any, and old Ronnie Simpson's got the full monty, nae teeth top an' bottom. The Italians are staring doon at us an' we're grinnin' back up at 'em wi' our great gumsy grins. We must have looked like something out o' the circus."
In the end of course, the Italians had no answer to the free-flowing total football of Stein's Celtic, exemplified by Johnstone, a style in polar opposition to Internationale's defensive Catenaccio style which had dominated European football. Johnstone described the Celtic style as "like the Dutch speeded-up".
In the immediate aftermath of the Lisbon victory Celtic formed the opposition in the testimonial game for the Real Madrid player Alfredo Di Stéfano. Johnstone's performance was such that the Real supporters began to cry "Ole !" every time he dribbled past one of their own team's players. Referring to his encounter with Johnstone in the 1970 European Cup semi-final, in what was billed at the time as the football "Battle of Britain", Terry Cooper of Leeds United described Johnstone as "my nightmare", such was the quality of his opponent's play.
Johnstone was also a Scottish international team member, playing 23 times for his country. England captain Emlyn Hughes was run ragged by Johnstone in an international, and remembered: "Scotland beat us 2-0 one year, and I was embarrassed to come off the pitch. Jimmy Johnstone absolutely crucified me. Alf Ramsey came up and said 'you've just played against a world-class player today. He can do that to anybody'".
Johnstone's dry wit was in evidence when the Lisbon Lions were paraded at Celtic Park on the 25th anniversary of their triumph in the European Cup. In an aside, Paul McStay, the then Celtic captain, asked Johnstone who he thought would win if the 1967 team was to play the team of 1992. Johnstone paused to consider for a moment, then replied that he thought it would be a draw. McStay suggested that perhaps the veteran was being kind to the current team. Johnstone explained -"well, you've got to remember that we're all in our fifties now!"
Johnstone suffered from a phobia of flying. Jock Stein used this to the advantage of the team in a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade, when he promised the winger that if he helped Celtic secure a large enough lead in the home leg, he would be excused from flying to Yugoslavia for the second leg. On this promise, Johnstone put in an excellent game, scoring twice and making three more goals, thus fulfilling his side of the bargain. After the game Stein declared that the people of Belgrade deserved to see his talents, but Johnstone didn't have to endure the flight to Yugoslavia.
During one stint with the Scotland team, Johnstone was the centre of some "high-jinks" which has gone down in Scottish football folk-lore as "The Largs Boat Incident". As there were four days before the team's next match, manager Willie Ormond had allowed the players a night out in the town at their Largs retreat. Coming out of the hostelry quite late, and quite drunk, the players were walking along the shore when Johnstone spotted a couple of rowing boats, and borrowed one of them, realising too late that there were no oars. The coast-guard had to be called to rescue him. On his return to the hotel [named The Queens Hotel], Johnstone remarked "Don't know what all the fuss is about - I thought I'd go fishing!"
Billy Connolly is the narrator on a documentary about Jimmy's life titled Lord of the Wing. The film includes footage of his footballing highlights, as well as numerous tributes from the world of football. The programme was first aired on the BBC in 2004.
In June 2005, Johnstone became the first living person since the time of the Tsars to have a Fabergé Egg designed in his honour. The egg was designed by Carl Fabergé's granddaughter Sarah and was unveiled at the House of Commons in June 2006. The entire collection of nineteen limited edition eggs sold out within days.
Johnstone was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2001. To raise funds for charity and to raise awareness of the disease, he launched a new version of the classic single "Dirty Old Town" together with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.
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 Scottish League Cup Final on 19 March, 2006. There was a minute of applause before the game and the entire Celtic squad wore the number 7 on both the front and back of their shirts in his honour. At the end of the match, Celtic's team wore shirts with the squad name "Jinky" and the number 7 as a further tribute to Johnstone.And in July 2008 ,Celtic announced that they were preparing to built a £60,000 statue of Jimmy Johnstone.The statue will be built in Kerrydale street near the ticket office.