Regular readers of the blog know that when Celtic are not playing I sometimes delve into our history and focus on certain players. Some of you might know this one.
James Connolly Johnstone
I did not see much of Jimmy Johnstone’ live’. In fact the only game I can remember him playing in was the joint testimonial with Bobby Lennox against Man United. We won 4-0 and the wee mhan threw his boots into the Jungle after the game. I am not going to rehash his life story or the many great games he played; people have written about the wee mhan with eloquence that I could never attain so I just want to convey my reactions to the recent BBC Alba programme, initially aired in September last year. I watched it over the last couple of days.
Of course I had seen videos of Jinky, my favourite clip featuring the moment when he beats big Davie Provan about three times without physically touching the ball, and I have read about him as a player. So it was with much anticipation I settled down to watch the BBC Alba documentary that focused on Jimmy’s career, but more on the person and the family man. I laughed my way through the programme and had tears in my eyes a few times as well. I had read about the formidable Agnes in the past but she spoke about her husband with a deep love and an amazingly wicked sense of humour. The wee mhan was not perfect by any means, who among us is? But he had the love and support of a good woman throughout his life and especially around the times he went off the rails.
My take away thoughts from the programme were that Jinky fulfilled his personal dream of playing for Celtic but there was something more than this. Jinky represented us. He WAS us. He was just a wee boy from Viewpark in Uddingston who grew up to play for Celtic. Most of us have dreamed about pulling on the Hoops and Jinky did this with the utmost distinction.
What I loved most about the programme was hearing about Jinky the man. Jinky the husband, the father and the friend. I loved the input from Agnes and the weans and the love they had as a family, it was there when they spoke of Jinky. I knew that he and former Rangers player Willie Henderson were mates and I loved the way wee Willie spoke about Jinky with a warmth and depth of feeling that transcended any game of football. BBC Alba conveyed a real humanity to this story and it was poignant without being maudlin and funny and uplifting without being slapstick or corny.
The other thing that really struck me was the bond between the Lisbon Lions. The way that Jinky’s team mates spoke about him and the way that group of Celtic players were mates off the pitch made them gel even more as team mates on the field of play. What a time to have been a member of that team under Big Jock. These ghuys were so good, yet so humble and so appreciative of their time together. Their wit, their warmth and their love for each other shone through. They are and were, some of them we have lost, amazing ambassadors for our club and they deserve every tribute they get on the Golden Anniversary of their triumph in Lisbon.
Willie Haughey played a huge part in getting Jimmy back on the rails in the latter years and helped the wee mhan enjoy some of his best moments with his family and to take control of and beat his drinking.
Jimmy had the heart and courage of a lion and the way he spoke about taking on Motor Neurone Disease was uplifting. Ultimately that condition proved to be the one full back the wee mhan could not skip past but what a life he led. We lost Jinky on 13 March 2006.
Hats off to the documentary makers and to everyone involved in this amazing programme.
Jinky was voted the Greatest ever Celt in 2002….and it seems so fitting as the wee red haired winger with a maverick streak embodies everything about playing the Celtic way. Skilful, fearless and entertaining in equal measure. A phenomenal footballer but an amazing human being by virtue of his frailties and his outstanding support network . He lived the dream and although he left Celtic and played elsewhere towards the twilight of his career his heart was always truly at Celtic Park.