30 Day Challenges… Day 21
“Your Favourite Player Before Your Lifetime”
There isn’t much I can say about Jimmy Johnstone that hasn’t been said before. He’s been voted Greatest Ever Celt previously and I wouldn’t argue with that. As a boy he was Celtic daft, as a man he was a Celtic legend. An integral part of the Lisbon Lions team that won the European Cup in 1967, there are so many stories you could tell about him that show you just how great he was.
I never saw him play. He retired a couple of years before I was born, but really he stopped when he left Celtic. His heart wasn’t in it, that’s how much he loved playing for the club. When he retired, he’d still spend all his time at Celtic. But I’ve heard the stories and I’ve seen the footage. There’s no doubt he was a genius. The kind of player you could give the ball to, go for a pint, come back and he’d still be tying the opposition in knots when you returned. Unless they had blootered him up in the air of course, which happened to him all too frequently.
He was an entertainer on the park, and a gentleman off the park. Unlike a lot of Celtic fans, I never met him. I wish I had. He always had time for the fans – like a lot of the players from that era to be fair. He’d have a laugh and a joke with everyone. Even after he was diagnosed with Motor-Neuron Disease, the wit never faded. He was laughing and joking until the day he died.
I went along to Celtic Park on the the day of his funeral. The sheer number of people there was phenomenal. Everyone wanted to say goodbye. But what really said it all was the number of people there that were my age or younger. People that couldn’t possibly have remembered him playing were there. If that doesn’t say how important he was to all of us, nothing does.
If you haven’t seen Jimmy Johnstone play, go onto YouTube and search for him. You won’t be disappointed.