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Last Updated: Monday, 13 March 2006, 12:27 GMT
Jinky the genius

By Pat Nevin
Former Scotland star

Jimmy Johnstone's death is a sad day for every Celtic fan - and as a boyhood supporter he was the Parkhead player I admired most.

He was an inspiration to me in so many ways, and when people talk about the great Celtic players, he was right up there with the likes of Kenny Dalglish.

I never met him, but my dad got a book signed by him and he put a personal message in it that was very positive about my style of play, which meant a lot to me.

I was around eight or nine when Jinky was in his prime at Celtic and I used to practice using methods he had suggested in his book.

My dad used to go down to watch Celtic train and study Jimmy's methodology, then come back and tell me what he was doing and I would practice with that in mind.

I used to dribble around cones as part of my warm-up, and do it after training every day as part of my own preparation - at Chelsea I used to warm-up by dribbling around ball-boys, although not surprisingly they soon got fed up.

And all this was shamelessly stolen from what Jinky himself used to do. It tied in with his concept of always being in complete control of the ball.

Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone
Jimmy would have been ridiculously special wherever he had played - he was that good
Pat Nevin

What I would never do is ever compare my playing style to his, even though we played on the wing and liked to dribble. In fact most wingers studiously avoid comparisons with him because he was special - ridiculously special.

What I will admit is that I copied his routines, ideas and concepts.

There were other things I took from him, one of which was that he proved that even if you were small, you could still make it.

Jimmy's fitness was astonishing. I think it was the "Lisbon Lions" captain Billy McNeill who said Jimmy must have had groin muscles made out of steel because of the way he twisted and turned.

He was brave as well. People talk about Celtic games against Atletico Madrid and Racing Club of Argentina when they tried to kick Jinky off the park, but he just kept coming back for more.

That was an inspiration for me as well. He was so brave even against the big guys, and that was something that stayed with me when I was a player.

If someone kicked me I always wanted to come back for more. I never wanted to show the big guys fear, it was always a case of "is that your best shot?" - a concept utterly stolen from Johnstone.

My dad used to go down to watch Celtic train and study Jimmy's methodology and tell me what he was doing and I would practice with that in mind
Pat Nevin

What should also be said is that for all his reputation as a small, jinking winger, he was a very rounded footballer.

He used to score quite a few headers and his goalscoring record was excellent as well. To simply talk of a gifted and tricky winger is to under-sell his talent.

Jinky is also remembered as a man who was brilliant fun, always up for a laugh and with a bit of devilment in him.

He was past his peak when he played in England with Sheffield United after all his great days at Parkhead, but for anyone who questions whether he could have done what he did in Scotland down south, there is not even an argument.

Indeed one of his greatest games for Celtic was against an outstanding Leeds United side in a European Cup semi-final at Hampden Park in 1970.

Jinky would have been special wherever he played - and he did it at the highest level with Celtic every season playing against Europe's best teams and reaching two European Cup finals.

He will be remembered as one of the greatest players ever to play for Celtic and it is an accolade he truly deserves.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Obituary - Jimmy Johnstone


News conference: Celtic manager Gordon Strachan



SEE ALSO
Jimmy Johnstone's life in photos
13 Mar 06 |  Photo Galleries
Chick Young's column
13 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Jinky best-ever Celtic player
09 Sep 02 |  Celtic


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